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Still in the dark in Belleville

Soon, very soon, the residents and taxpayers of Belleville finally will know who plans to develop the property across from Our Lady of the Snows Shrine, according to Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert. But the question remains, why doesn’t the public know already? Why the big secret?

Eckert also said in October that the developer’s name would be released soon. This week, his explanation for the continued silence is that the city doesn’t want negotiations conducted in the media. Another developer might swoop in if the name were unveiled, or another city might try to steal the project, he said.

It’s difficult to understand that the project is so tenuous that making the name public could derail it. In addition to knowing where the development would be located, the city has been dangling details about what’s planned – hotels, restaurants, a conference center, a convenience store. Surely other developers already know who’s planning this. So do the aldermen, who were called to City Hall in small groups to meet the developer while skirting the Open Meetings law. The only people kept in the dark are the people who will pay for the tax incentives the developer has said he will have to have to move forward.

Eckert talked about what all this development could mean for Belleville, including 400 new full- and part-time jobs. That will be wonderful if it happens, but that doesn’t explain or excuse all the secrecy.