UPDATE (1/19/16): Rockford aldermen voted 7-5 in favor of the proposed South New Towne public housing project.
The plat gives Wisconsin developer Gorman the necessary resources needed to build a 49 unit low income housing project on the South New Towne Drive land such as water, sewer and electrical.
Aldermen laid the plat vote over several times within the past month, which led Gorman and Bridge Rockford to file a lawsuit against the City for not voting on the plat within the 60 day time frame.
Before the vote, nearly every alderman spoke out against the housing project proposal, and those who voted to approve the plat say they had no other choice, as it followed City guidelines.
“In 2008 city council passed a town home provision, this plat falls under all those guidelines. I can’t go back to 2008 and remake that law,” said 3rd Ward Alderman Tom McNamara.
2nd Ward Alderman Jamie Getchius added, “You (Gorman and Rockford Housing Authority) got a team of lawyers together and you found a loophole in our ordinance, is that doing right by the people who are going to live there? No it is not, so shame on you (Rockford Housing Authority CEO) Ron Clewer, shame on you RHA, shame on you Gorman. Congratulations, you got me on this one.”
4th Ward Alderman Kevin Frost said, “You (Gorman and Rockford Housing Authority) sued us last week, so don’t come to me and say you want to be my friend, or the community’s friend when you’re part of an entity that sued us last week. So, my vote tonight, saying yes to this, isn’t because I’m afraid [of a lawsuit.]”
Rockford Housing Authority CEO Ron Clewer said, “I think it’s incumbent upon all of us to really reach out, and I understand that folks are upset, but at this point we all need to move forward.”
Gorman and Company has filed a lawsuit against the City of Rockford over delays to approve the plat of land for the proposed South New Towne Drive public housing project.
Alderman have delayed voting on the plat as they consult with an attorney over their legal options.
In the filed complaint, Gorman alleges the City has violated its own zoning ordinances by delaying the vote by more than 60 days. Alderman delayed their last vote after deciding they had not yet reached the 60 day threshold.
The Bridge Rockford Alliance, an organization associated with the Rockford Housing Authority, is also listed as a plaintiff in the case. A hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for Wednesday.
This is the latest chapter in an ongoing controversy over the secretive acquisition of land by Gorman. The developer has been working with housing officials to build a housing project on Rockford’s East side, a process which brought such a public outcry that the company was forced to scale back the project in an attempt to avoid alderman rejecting it.
The plat submission vote is supposed to a formality, acknowledging that Gorman’s plans to develop the property conform to Rockford city code. However, alderman have been encouraged, by residents of the South New Towne neighborhood, to reject it and fight against the housing project in court.
A copy of the lawsuit first published in the ‘Rockford Register Star’, which has been a supporter of the project, and strongly urged council members, in its editorial pages, to approve the housing project and the plat. You can read the Register Star’s editorial here.