Robbins residents grill developer of proposed quarry, mine
BY CASEY TONER Sun-Times Media October 21, 2013 10:56PM
Updated: October 22, 2013 7:22AM
Robbins residents showed up in force Monday night to demand answers from the developer seeking to create a limestone quarry and underground mine in the village. The project would require the acquisition of about 50 occupied homes.
Hundreds of residents packed the Robbins Community Center and spoke out about the project, most in opposition, during a nearly four-hour public meeting.
“The deal you have given us is not right,” Robbins resident Welton Jones Sr. said. “This thing came about in a way that we were bamboozled.”
The town hall meeting was held a day before the village board is set to vote on whether to support using “quick-take” authority to acquire the property needed for the massive development. The meeting is set for 7 p.m. Tuesday at the community center.
“You have to know that you are not getting shafted,” Mayor Tyrone Ward told the crowd. “We will not let that happen to you.”
Riverside-based ALM Resources entered into a deal with Robbins in May that would create a 61-acre quarry and a 169-acre mine as part of a huge industrial complex in village of about 5,000 residents.
To move the project forward, the village would need to acquire about 50 occupied single-family homes, along with some businesses, churches and the old Robbins incinerator. The development would begin in late 2014 or early 2015, according to the developer’s timetable.
Under the plan, Robbins would receive from 5 to 9 percent of the annual revenue from the quarry sales, depending on the total revenue.
Rib Mountain Aggregate has been selected by ALM to operate the quarry and mine. Stephen Davis, Rib Mountain Aggregate’s president, said the projects, if successful, might generate as much as $140 million for the village during the next 40 years.
ALM Resources wants to acquire the land through a “quick-take” process, using Robbins’ power of eminent domain. That would require approval from the Legislature, which could consider it during the upcoming veto session.
State Rep. Bob Rita (D-Blue Island) ruled out supporting such a bill in the immediate future. He said he needed more details about the large-scale project as well as input from the mayors of neighboring towns that would be affected by it.
“I’m not doing it,” Rita said of a possible bill this year. “To do something of this magnitude, we need to get a lot of questions answered.”
While a majority of the crowd was critical of the redevelopment, not all residents opposed it. Darrell Mitchell, who owns Omega Tax and Accounting in the village, said it was a “big-picture” project worthy of consideration.
“We have to collectively work together to change and break this cycle,” Mitchell said, referring to Robbins’ poverty. “That means there will be collateral damage. That means people will be displaced. At the end of the day, we have to do something different.”
In a meeting with reporters before the public meeting, Jim Louthen, ALM’s managing partner, said residents who would be displaced would be given fair market value for their houses as well as a “relocation package” that would allow them to move into a “similar or better residence then they are in today.”
If the project ceased or went bankrupt, all property that ALM Resources purchased through the redevelopment agreement would be returned to the village, Louthen said.
“Anything more detailed, my lawyer would have to provide,” he said.
Asked if the village was given feasibility studies, environmental studies and other reports related to the project before approving the deal, Louthen said the village had “some of them.”
“They had what they asked for,” he said of Robbins officials.