What will become of Hanna City work camp property?

By WEEK Producer

December 8, 2012 Updated Dec 10, 2012 at 11:45 AM CDT

HANNA CITY, Ill. -- Abandoned more than a decade ago, the old work camp on Route 116 in Hanna City sits quiet.

But outside the barbed wire that protects the 38-acre property, there was activity on Saturday.

A few miles down the road, at the local community center, Peoria County officials conducted what Hanna City's mayor called a brain-storming session to determine what to do with the site.

"It's become an eyesore. And we frequently gets complaints and questions about what the county is going to do with the property," said John Hamann, director of rural economic development for Peoria County.

"Right now, we're looking at something (like) agricultural," said Hanna City mayor Fred Winterroth, "creating some areas for sustainable food sources."

So they invited members of the extensions from the University of Illinois, Northern Illinois University, and Illinois Central College to get their input.

Several participants spoke of creating a food hub that would serve local farmers and specialty growers as a point of distribution to consumers.

"Local food hub initiatives are growing all across our nation," said Peoria County Board member Mary Ardapple. "Communities recognize the value and health and wellness of having some control and ownership of locally grown agriculture."

Because of the existence of an FAA radar tower on the property there are firm restrictions on what can be built there. For example, no metal buildings and nothing over 40-feet tall are allowed within 2,000 feet of the tower.

"We can't sell it, we can't develop it, we can hardly build anything there," explained Hamann.

Which leaves agriculture as one of the few viable options for this land.

Right now, the only thing its used for is some tactical training by the Peoria County Sheriff's Office and local fire companies.

As for a time table for future use conversion, Ardapple suggested, "I think there should be able to be an initial implementation process inside of three years that we have some kind of development out there."

But first, they have to settle on what that development will be.