City Council address: Urban sprawl

Editor’s note: On Monday, Aug. 9, Rick Jones addressed the Rockford City Council. The following is a transcript of his address.

I am here to speak to you about urban sprawl. I sit on the board of, and am here as a representative of, the Lyran Singing Society. We have been a chartered society since 1894 and have been located at 1115-4th Ave. since 1911. We also own a 41-acre park at 4781 South Bend Rd. purchased in 1928. We are separated from the South edge of the airport property by a narrow strip of the Kishwaukee River. We are deeply concerned about the mayor’s recommendation of Sunil Puri to be appointed to the airport board of directors. Not that Mr. Puri is lacking in acumen, to the contrary, we respect Mr. Puri’s savvy in his field. No pun intended.

It is our opinion that the recommendation of Mr. Puri to the airport board is transparent in its purpose. That being the development of the south end of the airport in the quickest possible time frame. We oppose Mr. Puri’s appointment and any development that will encroach upon the natural setting of our park.

If he were not paving and corporatizing the land on Highway 173, across the street from Rock Cut State Park, we would feel differently. If his past work had been a balance between paving cornfields and renewal of existing historical buildings, we might also feel differently. His development style appears to be one of constant expansion with little regard to flora, fauna, or habitat. Trees bad, Applebee’s good.

We are also troubled by the fact that this suggested appointment may be politically motivated, in that Mr. Puri is a past contributor to the Scott for Mayor campaign.

The members of the Lyran Club deserve to know when the sprawl on the south end of the airport will stop before it begins. We do not want convenience stores, gas stations, corporate restaurants, housing subdivisions and the rest of Mr. Puri’s trademark across from our park. Let the development of Mr. Puri’s new downtown east of Alpine Road suffice. Let the rape of land across the street from Rock Cut State Park suffice. The Lyran Club bought park land outside of the city because we wanted to own park land outside of the city. We have only one park, and the thought of Mr. Puri’s bulldozers approaching within feet of our park is unacceptable. If development comes, it will never go away. No one ever tears down a shopping mall to put in a farm.

I ask the City Council to delay the vote on Mr. Scott’s recommendation long enough to examine and re-examine how their actions today will affect future generations. The negative long-term implications of allowing sprawling developments by previous Rockford administrations are now becoming apparent. With all due respect, you City Council members may or may not see that there is a train coming.

The Lyran Club does, and all we’re trying to do is get you to step off the track for a minute.

Rick Jone is a Rockford resident.

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