The “Stop Fareway and Save Audubon” Facebook Page has 360 “Likes,” but on Wednesday, May 29th, 2013, only a couple dozen people were allowed into a meeting hosted by Fareway Stores, Inc.
The meeting was a chance for Fareway to discuss their plans to demolish the vacant Audubon Elementary School in Rock Island and build a supermarket in its place. However, the invitation-only meeting was only for homeowners surrounding the school and did not include all of them.
Lisa Seidlitz, who lives four blocks away from Audubon, says she didn’t receive an invitation and when she tried to enter the meeting, she was asked to leave.
“I don’t know what their circle was,” she tells News 8. “I don’t know exactly who was invited, but we were not.”
“We came because we want our voices heard. I think it would be a real shame for that school to be torn down and to put up a supermarket that this area does not need.”
WQAD tried to get into the meeting as well, but all media was asked to leave.
Those who were able to get inside, say they left disappointed.
“I don’t think things have gotten better,” says Dr. Stephen Klien, an Associate Professor at Augustana College who also lives near Audubon. “At the end of the meeting, the Fareway folks conceded the point that even if 90% of the immediately surrounding neighbors opposed the project, they would go through with the project anyway.”
“It was frustrating to see what their plans are,” says Victor Panegos, who lives right behind Audubon. “This is going to be the start of urban decay in this neighborhood.”
Neighbors who oppose the plan say there are many reasons why, including increased traffic on 18th Avenue and in their neighborhood, rezoning issues, environmental concerns, plus the cost.
“We still don’t know exactly how much this is going to cost the taxpayers,” says Victor. “I just think what’s at stake h ere is more than just Fareway. It’s the rights of the property owners and the taxpayers of Rock Island and our zoning laws versus the rights of a $900 million company from Iowa. I mean, who will our City Council side with?”
Representatives from Fareway did talk with News 8 after the meeting. They say they wanted to give neighbors who live adjacent to Audubon a chance to share their ideas, thoughts, and opinions before they open it up to the whole community. The first opportunity to hear that kind of public comment could come as early as Tuesday, June 4th at the City’s Planning Commission Meeting at City Hall.