The folks wanting to develop property across Illinois 15 from the National Shrine of Our Lady of the Snows appear to be crying in their beer.
They sent Belleville this strange missive — a letter you would be hard pressed to find from another developer on any other local project: “After two years of attempting to smile while hearing of falsehoods and innuendoes about us, our businesses and our family, we ask simply that people not interfere and rather allow us to do what we said we would do,” wrote Chuck Keller, head of the Effingham family developing the Hofbräuhaus, restaurant and Hyatt Place project.
Their letter leaves you wondering whether they are upset with folks questioning when they plan to open the Hofbräuhaus. What they said they would do is open June 1, then they said November and now they say maybe May 1.
Are they upset people wonder whether the soccer complex will be built, after a key figure died and after there were talks with O’Fallon about an identical project with the same company?
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Are they upset that they set a news conference in March to name a hotel, canceled it, then set another public announcement Nov. 2, at which they again didn’t name the hotel but showed an artist rendering with the Hyatt Place logo all over it?
Their “negativity” letter does more to raise questions than calm concerns. One would hope a $100 million project is on solid-enough footing to withstand some reasonable questions, or even some innuendo.
Belleville leaders so far have spent more than $2 million to run sewer lines out to the newly annexed property. If this whole thing falls apart, then those lines are available for whatever replaces it, and something is sure to replace it with all that open ground, highway access and those fantastic views.
City leaders were smart to structure it so the developers get nothing until they start producing revenue. At that point, the developers are welcome to their $38 million in incentives, money coming from land that was producing neither revenue nor taxes when it was part of the Shrine.
Keller continues: “Sadly, at least three Belleville people, including a current city official, have telephoned or harassed our proposed partners for various portions of the development with the clear and self-admitted intention of driving the potential partner away.” Then on Wednesday, his lawyer sent a cease-and-desist letter to City Clerk Dallas Cook, who is expected to run for mayor, stating Cook faces litigation if he fails to stop contacting Keller business associates and acquaintances seeking negative information to disparage the development.
Cook responded Friday: “I am not even aware of what I said, but I received this letter today. I guess anyone who dares to represent the taxpayers and ask much-needed questions will be sued.”
Questions to protect taxpayers are good. Trying to poison a business deal for political gain would be bad, demonstrating seriously poor judgment in a leader.
Everyone seems excited about this destination development with potential to draw folks from far away. What could be more popular than offering beer to a city of Germans? No wonder their local Facebook page has more than 7,000 “likes.”
More work. Less talk. Jawohl!