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Possible new development near Sparta?

Discussion in 'Uncategorized Threads' started by trapwife, Jun 10, 2007.

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  1. trapwife

    trapwife Well-Known Member Supporting Vendor

    Joined:
    Jan 29, 1998
    Messages:
    2,609
    Below is the link to the story.
    http://www.stltoday.com/stltoday/news/stories.nsf/illinoisnews/story/899BF600E61A4797862572F5001A852B?OpenDocument

    Here is the story.

    SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration has
    ordered
    private developers not to talk about plans for a huge new resort
    near
    Pinckneyville until Blagojevich himself can announce it, sources
    say.

    Some lawmakers who support the project say that public relations
    directive
    could be endangering the proposal.

    "People have asked, 'If these (developers) are credible, why
    don't they
    answer the phone?'" said state Sen. David Luechtefeld,
    R-Okawville. He is
    among several lawmakers who say they learned late last week of
    the
    administration's gag order and now are pressing to have it
    lifted.

    The Toney Watkins Co., a Glen Carbon-based investment group,
    wants to build
    a Branson-like, 5,000-acre resort near Pinckneyville, possibly
    under a
    controversial land swap arrangement with the state. That
    controversy has
    been heightened in the past week by the dead silence of the
    company and its
    lobbyists, to the point of failing to even answer reporters'
    phone calls.

    Several legislators and company officials confirmed Friday that
    the reason
    for the silence is a directive from Blagojevich's Department of
    Commerce
    and Economic Opportunity, which has been involved in talks on
    the project
    and could potentially offer financing or other assistance for
    it.

    Belleville consultant Geri Boyer, who is working with the
    developers, said
    the gag order was contained in a letter from the agency. "It
    says we are
    not allowed to talk with the press until the governor announces
    the
    project," Boyer told the Post-Dispatch.

    She didn't specify what the letter referred to and said she
    couldn't
    provide more details because of the agency's confidentiality
    directive. She
    said she and others are pressing the agency to allow the
    developers to say
    more. "We really would like to talk with you," she said.

    Chicago attorney Walter R. Dale, general counsel and vice
    president for the
    Toney Watkins Co., also confirmed on Friday the existence of the
    letter,
    though he said he couldn't detail its contents because it wasn't
    in front
    of him. He said the company's public silence has been partly
    because "we're
    trying to get a clear reading on what we're allowed to discuss"
    as laid out
    in the letter.

    A spokesman for the economic development agency initially denied
    on Friday
    that the agency has told developers not to discuss the project.
    When
    pressed specifically about the letter that Boyer and Dale said
    the
    developers received from the agency, the spokesman would neither
    confirm
    nor deny its existence.

    "I'm not sure what letter she's referring to," said the
    spokesman, Andrew
    Ross. "We're aware of the project, but that's for the developers
    to talk
    about." He declined to comment further.

    A message left with Blagojevich's office Friday wasn't returned.

    Lawmakers who have been talking to developers for more than a
    year about
    the proposal said they learned of the gag order during a closed
    meeting
    with the developers' representatives on Thursday. It came to
    light after
    legislators asked the developers why media reports kept
    highlighting the
    lack of available information about the company and its plans.

    "One of the things we jumped on them about was, 'Why haven't you
    answered
    your phones?' They said (the administration) said, 'Don't
    discuss this,'"
    said Luechtefeld.

    "We were upset about that. It looks suspicious when you can't
    get anyone to
    pick up the phone," Luechtefeld said. " … This (proposal) is
    something that
    can fall apart in a hurry. People who invest in this … if
    there's any doubt
    in their minds, they just go somewhere else."

    Luechtefeld and state Rep. Dan Reitz, D-Steeleville, another
    participant in
    the meeting, said there are concerns that the gag order has
    complicated an
    already difficult quest to get the project started.

    "I wish they would have told me this earlier, so I would have
    had an answer
    for people who asked why (the developers) weren't returning
    calls," said
    Reitz. Like other lawmakers from the area, he views the resort
    proposal as
    a potential economic boon for the depressed Southern Illinois
    region. "They
    need to start telling people what this is about."

    What has been revealed is that the developers envision a $100
    million theme
    park and tourism destination — including music entertainment
    venues, golf
    courses, a BMX bike-racing facility and other amenities — near
    Pinckneyville, a town of about 5,400 people 70 miles southeast
    of St.
    Louis. Developers ultimately hope to have 5,000 acres of land
    for the
    project.

    It's difficult to find an undeveloped piece of land that size
    (It's more
    than 10 times the entire acreage of Six Flags St. Louis). Among
    the
    proposals the developers have brought to lawmakers is for the
    state to
    provide 2,000 acres of land from the north side of nearby
    Pyramid State
    Recreation Area, in exchange for the same amount of land
    currently under
    private ownership, with an option for another 3,000-acre trade
    later.

    The 20,000-acre state park in Perry County is Illinois' largest,
    and
    environmentalists have raised concerns about turning over any of
    it for
    private development. Legislation is pending in Springfield to
    allow the
    land swap, but Reitz and other supporters of the project view
    that as a
    last resort and are pegging their hopes instead on talks between
    the
    developers and private landowners in the area.

    Pinckneyville sits in Illinois' economically devastated
    coal-mining region,
    and local and state officials have tried for years to come up
    with ideas to
    provide investment and jobs to the area. Lawmakers in the past
    week have
    said the resort proposal could potentially create 2,500 jobs.

    But media attempts to talk to the developers themselves have
    been mostly
    fruitless. Dale, the company's executive vice president, said
    that's partly
    because key company officials have been out of town lately and
    were caught
    off-guard by the controversy that arose when talk of the land
    swap spread
    through the Legislature last week. He also noted the
    administration's
    letter requesting confidentiality.

    Dale said details that have been reported about the company's
    plans so far
    are accurate, but he declined to offer further details yet.
     
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