Proposed sports complex isn't pleasing everyone

By WEEK Reporter

January 12, 2014 Updated Jan 13, 2014 at 12:39 PM CDT

PEORIA, Ill.-- The proposed domed sports complex for Peoria is not sitting well with some residents.

Stephen and Marla Ashburn enjoy the view from their back porch but if a proposed sports complex becomes a reality they said they won't be here to enjoy it.

They said they will sell, even at a loss.

"This area was all supposed to be residential, R-1. We knew eventually we'd be getting neighbors. We wanted neighbors, we don't want commercial development," said Stephen Ashburn.

Last month, developer Mark Peterson and Louisville Slugger announced plans to build a dome and ten field sports complex near the Shoppes at Grand Prairie.

But it isn't a done deal yet. There still are three hurdles to cross. The first, changing the zoning from residential to commercial.

"It was handled so improperly. To say it was a done deal, when there have been contracts signed with developers, but it hasn't gone through the voting procedure. That's wrong. That's not government for the people", said Ashburn, who lives across from the proposed complex.

Fifth District Councilman Casey Johnson said the city continues to balance something that is beneficial to the city without ruining the quality of life for those residents.

Johnson wants to assure residents that the developer does not have free range. The developer will have to follow all of the same ordinances regarding noise, alcohol and lighting that anyone else would.

But that isn't enough to convince neighbors.

"Put it somewhere where it doesn't effect residents. Residents who pay taxes, residents who pay for city building permits," said Stephen Ashburn.

Neighbors feel if this is approved, it will only be a matter of time before the land across from the complex also gets rezoned.

"We're afraid that this property will go commercial too. So I'll have a 7-11 or a Mr. Donut or whatever right behind the house and that's not why we bought out here", said Stephen Ashburn.

At-large Councilman Chuck Weaver said he has been very pleased with how the developer has been working with the city.

Weaver said all requests will continue to be considered until the council makes a decision.

He understands all the concerns and acknowledges comprehensive planning is something that could be done better in the future but he also believes the complex will have several benefits.

"Right now I'm getting a lot of calls about the cuts happening at Dunlap schools and that's all about money. It's projects like this that can help balance that," said Weaver.

There will be a public meeting on the complex Monday night at the Peoria Public Library's North Branch. It begins at 6 p.m.

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