Big Island Residents React to City’s Development Plans

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An outlet mall, sporting goods store, restaurants, and living space are just some of the possibilities for a piece of land newly-acquired by Rock Island.

City leaders say they want to develop 90 acres on Big Island, located right across Interstate 280 from Jumer's Casino and Hotel.

On Monday, February 4, 2013, aldermen unanimously voted to purchase the land from Riverstone Group, Inc. for $1 million.

City leaders say it will create jobs and grow the tax base, but some residents WQAD talked with on Monday who live near the site say they're not too happy with the city's decision.

Residents, like Linda Nelson, say Big Island is "quiet and nice and people watch out for people." She says she wants it to stay that way.

"Why would you bring traffic and congestion and garbage out there to destroy everything?"

Nelson has lived on Big Island for 21 years. In fact, the house she lives in used to be her Aunt's and she says she started going to Big Island as early as eight years old.

However, Nelson is worried that changes to the area will wash everything away.

"My concern is the flood, the floodwater, and the traffic, the noise," says Nelson. "It just would destroy everything out here."

"The levee is everything to us and we protect this thing like you would not believe," says Randy Wlaskolich, another resident who has lived on Big Island for nearly 40 years.

On Monday, Wlaskolich took WQAD to Big Island's levee to show what could happen if the city makes any major modifications.

"From what I understand, they want to take a 300-foot section out of our levee and put an access road right there," says Wlaskolich. "That's a big modification and it can be very dangerous for us out here. That levee was not designed for what the city of Rock Island wants to do. I'll fight everything I can to keep this levee intact and I don't want to flood these people out. They didn't build this levee for no reason. It’s designed to protect not only the residents here on Big Island but the residents and the businesses in Milan."

"It's just big money is all they want," says Nelson. "They don't care about the residents."

WQAD brought those issues up at Monday night's City Council meeting. Mayor Dennis Pauley says they have expert engineers looking at the levee.

"Then we have to get it signed off by the city of Milan and signed off by Big Island and then it’ll go to the Corps of Engineers for them to look at, so it’s still a lengthy process," says Mayor Pauley.

He says the development is a great vision for the city and hopes it's a project everyone can work on together, including those on Big Island.

"We don't want them to have concerns," says Mayor Pauley. "If we need special buffering, we'll do special buffering. We want whatever it's going to take to make them comfortable and yet have the project go forward."

Rock Island City Manager Thomas Thomas says once the levee modifications are approved, the city can begin to market the site to potential developers and retailers. Until that time though, they're not sure what exactly will go in that area, though a market study shows the area can support additional retail and entertainment.