Sturtevant trustees Tuesday voted unanimously to carry on conversations with SC Johnson about a 2.6-acre parcel of land the village needs to relocate Willow Road next year ahead of the state’s Highway 11 expansion project.
What that means, Village President Steve Jansen explained, is that village staffers will continue to meet with representatives from SCJ, but a Committee of the Whole meeting in open session is still on the table.
“I think we all just needed a cooling down period to get all of our ducks in a row,” he said. “We have to keep all options on the table, and I do hope to have a meeting in public with the full board and SC Johnson.”
Before the regularly scheduled continual committee meeting the board met in closed session to discuss the situation and decide how to move forward.
The meeting comes on the heels of letters exchanged between the village and SCJ that argue whether or not the company was fully aware of Sturtevant’s plans to relocate Willow Road ahead of the state’s plan to make Highway 11 a divided, four-lane road from 92nd Street to Highway 31. To redirect Willow Road slightly to the west to connect with 84th Street, the village needs to purchase 2.6 acres of land from the southern tip of SCJ’s property, which includes their manufacturing plant at Waxdale.
Sturtevant contends that conversations with SC Johnson representatives for the last decade have led nowhere, leaving the village no choice but to file a claim for eminent domain even though they’ve been trying to negotiate a purchase price. SCJ says the village has gone too far, and Fisk Johnson, company CEO, threatened to pull up stakes and move manufacturing operations, costing the area 1,000 jobs.
A formal relocation order related to the project was also approved by the Public Works/Capital Improvements Committee. The order is a formality required by state statute in order to move forward with the land purchase, whether it be a negotiated deal or approved through the courts and eminent domain.
Jansen described it as “dotting i’s and crossing t’s” as part of the relocation project; it includes maps of exactly how much land is needed, where the parcels are located, what they will be used for (road, storm water drainage, utility easement), and each piece’s latitude and longitude.
The village filed a claim of eminent domain last month, but Janson said that can be rescinded at any time before 120 days expire.
“We can pull the eminent domain at any time if we reach a deal,” he stated.
Trustees also unanimously approved pushing forward with plans to extend Willow Road south of Highway 11 in 2016 as planned. Once that leg of the project is complete, Willow Road will connect with the southern leg of the road on the other side of the Kirkorian Nature Preserve and serve as another north-south artery through the village.