Winnebago Co. judge listens to arguments on South New Towne plat

Published: May. 27, 2016 at 2:39 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Families in the South New Towne neighborhood took their case to a Winnebago County court as they say the proposed public housing complex by the Rockford Housing Authority and Gorman and Company did not meet the proper requirements before its approval by city council.

Both the city and legal representation for the neighbors had their first opportunity to explain to judge Eugene Doherty why this case should be dismissed or move ahead to trial. The case is focused on looking at the final plat, or plan of the property, and if it had the right to be approved by city council back on January 19th.

"This has nothing to do with the challenge that is before your honor other than to set the stage for the development, which is what they're really trying to challenge," said Gorman attorney Thomas Geselbracht.

Attorneys with Gorman and Bridge Rockford Alliance assisted the city with its case Friday morning.

They say that although this case is supposed to be about the validity of the final plat, the plaintiffs are really just trying to challenge the development adding that this is not a proper constitutional challenge and it is solely prejudice-based.

Meanwhile the plaintiffs' attorney James Hess says that if built, the public housing units will destroy the living conditions in the neighborhood.

"My clients' property values and joy of life will be impacted adversely by this development," said Hess.

Both sides will be back in court on July 28th where Doherty is expected to announce if this case will head to trial.

Terry Siebert, who originally began the petition against the project, says their group's focus right now is on raising money so they can afford an attorney. Because he says that if this fails in the Winnebago County court system, they plan on taking it to a federal court.

Gorman Illinois Market President Andre Blakley says they are looking to see when they can begin construction and that may even start before the judge makes a ruling.

"We'll go back and weigh those factors to see how soon we can start, but our mission and objective, we've got a hard target of moving forward with this development and we're proceeding as planned," said Blakley.