WILLOW SPRINGS, Ill. — A school district in Willow Springs is considering the sale of a green space bordering an elementary school to an industrial development company, much to the displeasure of local residents.
“We go for nature walks, we take the kids, we take the dogs up there,” said Mary Lenzen, a local mother to a second grader.
The 70-acre green space butts up to Pleasantdale Elementary School and serves as a backdrop for the homes that border it, but neighbors worry it won’t stay much longer.
The property has been owned by Lyons Township High School District 204 for decades, but the district is considering selling the property — which is currently zoned only for light business and residential development — to a company called Bridge Industrial for $55 million.
“We have our littlest learners outside for a majority of the day,” Lenzen said. “And if we put in this trucking warehouse, are we thinking about the pollution, the traffic?”
Lenzen, who also serves on the board of the school district, said she is rallying with neighbors to fight the plan. A change.org petition shows more than 2,100 signatures in support of stopping the sale (according to the 2020 US Census, Willow Springs had a total population of 5,857).
“They’re doing, basically, a smash and grab I call it,” said Fred Whiting, a neighbor whose property borders the green space. “There should be some communication and some consideration for how it would affect the community.”
In a letter to the community Tuesday, Willow Springs Village President Melissa Neddermeyer said she even asked Bridge industrial to retract its bid because of community pushback. The village tells WGN News that it has no plans to change its zoning ordinance to allow for industrial development like the one Bridge Industrial would build there.
As for the potential sale, the district said on its website it would use the $55 million to invest in existing school facilities, like modernizing classrooms and upgrading HVAC systems.
A spokeswoman provided WGN News the following statement:
“Since November, district leaders and the Board of Education have communicated with our school community about the potential sale of the Willow Springs property. This includes creating a website dedicated to providing the community with information and updates as we move through the process of a potential sale.
“One of those recent updates focused on the January 11 meeting, in which LT opened two bids. As part of the Board’s fiduciary responsibility to the District, the Board’s counsel is currently completing a legal review to ensure all requirements are met. Pending the legal review, the Board will potentially consider the final bid at an upcoming meeting.
“Community members can find more information and provide their input at www.ltwillowspringsproperty.org.
“We will continue to keep our school community, local government officials, and other stakeholders updated and informed throughout this process.”
According to the school district, after legal review, it will potentially consider the final bid at their upcoming school board meeting Monday, where parents and neighbors say they will also be present to speak their minds on the topic.