Robbins residents discuss legal options against project
By Casey Toner email@example.com October 29, 2013 10:56PM
Updated: December 2, 2013 11:24AM
A lawyer associated with U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush (D-1st) met with Robbins residents Tuesday night to answer legal questions and offer possible strategy concerning a controversial and massive project that would include a limestone quarry and mine in the small town.
“You gotta get to the trustees,” attorney Timothy Wright III, Rush’s former chief of staff, told the residents. “You gotta get them to slow this project down.”
The meeting was held as questions continue to swirl around the proposed development, which also would include ready-mix and asphalt plants and require seizing about 50 homes through the village’s power of eminent domain. About 100 people attended the meeting at Greater Unity Christian Baptist Church.
Under growing pressure from concerned homeowners, the village board voted last week to not pursue a bill in the fall veto session of the General Assembly that would enable the village to quickly acquire land needed for the project.
Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart also announced Monday that he was investigating the project to make sure that residents’ rights were protected and the process was transparent.
Rush, whose congressional district includes Robbins, spoke out about the project after the SouthtownStar reported this month that the village board had agreed in May to allow Riverside-based ALM Resources to develop about 20 percent of Robbins for the industrial complex that would include a 61-acre quarry and a 169-acre mine.
Rush’s spokeswoman said Wright was offering free legal advice to residents temporarily while Rush looks for an attorney to represent the residents’ interests going forward.
Wright told the crowd that the proposed development has become a “political issue” and now was drawing the attention of public officials such as Rush and Dart. He joked that village trustees might end up being the “ones that have to find lawyers.”
Wright answered questions about the validity of the development plan, which was signed by longtime Mayor Irene Brodie in one of her final acts before she left office in May. Many residents questioned whether Brodie was suffering from dementia during her final year or so in office.
“If the mayor wasn’t competent to sign this, you don’t have a valid contract,” Wright said. “Game over.”
Addressing a key aspect of the development plan, Wright said the “quick-take” process to acquire land, including homes, would allow the village to seize property immediately and have hearings on the issue of fair compensation afterward.
ALM Resources wanted to acquire the land through Robbins’ power of eminent domain, which allows it to take private property for the public good. The quick-take process requires legislative approval, and many residents feared that such a bill could pass in the current legislative session.
State Sen. Emil Jones III (D-Chicago) has joined state Rep. Robert Rita (D-Blue Island) in opposition to passing such a bill this fall, issuing a statement Monday that he didn’t support any measure that “forces the people of Robbins from their homes.”
“ALM stands to make billions from this project and only wants to give residents a fraction of their homes’ value,” Jones said. “The people of Robbins deserve a more transparent process that allows them to decide rather than a bureaucratic injunction.”
Throughout Tuesday night’s meeting, residents expressed anger and frustration that the project had advanced so far without their knowledge.
DeLean Fuller said the community needs to focus on pressuring local officials, finding an attorney and invalidating the village’s contract with ALM. She told residents to draw their own maps of Robbins to imagine what they want the village to be.
“We know the beginning, we’re struggling through the middle, so let’s visualize what we want that end to be so it will help us get through this,” Fuller said.