Farmers in Will County march to protest new business park

There was a protest march by farmers in Will County Thursday.

They are angry about plans to build a huge new business park south of Joliet, which they say will increase truck traffic and decrease safety.

But proponents say it's an economic windfall for a booming area.

It was quite a sight in southern Will County as a parade marched down narrow rural roads, past empty fields and aging barns.

The parade, actually a protest by area farmers, was against plans to build a 2200-acre business park on some fertile farmland.

"We don't need it. We don't want it. Industry is already here. The warehouses can go someplace else that's not being used for agriculture,” said farmer Alexis Krapf.

The proposed $1.2-billion-dollar compass business park is a product of E-Commerce. It would tie together trains carrying goods from overseas to 50 giant distribution warehouses, and thousands of trucks to deliver to a large part of the Midwest.

But the farmers say all that truck traffic is dangerous when you're driving a 16-foot-wide piece of farm equipment that only goes 20 miles an hour.

"Coming by they want to pass at 60 mph sometimes. Kinda scary. When I get off the road, especially a road that doesn't have any shoulder, the tires fall into the ditch and the combine swings and sways,” said farmer Larry Christiansen.

But Northpoint, the company that's developing the business park, is proposing a closed loop for truck traffic that will bypass most of the rural roads and head straight to the nearby expressway.

"We continue to listen. We continue to welcome input and we'll continue to make the plan better,” said Northpoint Vice President Patrick Robinson.

And proponents point out the project will create more than a thousand construction jobs and eventually 15-thousand permanent jobs.

"It's a well-paying job with good benefits in a project that will last ten years,” said Kevin Hray of Iron Workers Union.

Not only are the farmers opposed to the development, so are many of the residents who moved here for the peace and quiet of rural life.

The Elwood zoning board is holding a public hearing on the Northpoint proposal Thursday night and could vote to give the project the green light.