GLENVIEW - A scuffle over property rights is heating up around the North Eastern Illinois University, where the school has filed to acquire several properties through the power of eminent domain.
NEIU, which is the only state-owned university that currently does not offer student housing, wants to use the surrounding area to build dormitories. The proposed dormitories will be purchased and developed by American Campus Communities Inc. and will be located on both sides of Bryn Mawr, a block east of the University's campus.
Six of the eight properties to be condemned are refusing to sell and have mounted a neighborhood effort in opposition to what they refer to as a "land grab."
Greg Bedell, the Republican candidate for State Representative in the 15th District agrees with the local business owners and residents that are opposing the land grab.
"This has nothing to do with quality of education and everything to do with benefiting private interests," Bedell said. He objects to the government using its drastic power of eminent domain to take private property from one owner and give it to another private owner.
The area's incumbent State Representative, John D'Amico, has been largely silent on the issue despite numerous constituents reaching out to his office.
In a statement to WTTW, D'Amico stated that it is within the University's legal right to use eminent domain and beyond the authority of elected officials. A spokesperson for Alderman Laurino says that she supports North Eastern's plans.
Many of the properties to be condemned include businesses that have been fixtures of the community for years. Bill Tong's Grandfather built the current property in 1954. His family resides in the living quarters directly above the restaurant, including his disabled mother who is unable to care for herself and depends on the income from the property for their financial well-being.
"Demolition of the property where I grew up is more than a business deal to me," Tong told DNAinfo. "It is the physical and emotional destruction of my family's legacy, representing the blood, sweat, tears and toil of three generations and our embodiment of the American dream."
"The University's refusal to instead build on land they already own has furthered the community's perception that this development has nothing to do with increasing the quality of education," Bedell said in a statement. "Nearby residents have voiced a number of their concerns including diminished parking, noise and dirt from the construction, excessive population density and a drastic change in the neighborhood's makeup."
To date, only one study has been concluded. The Danter report found that the new dormitories would only be affordable for 3% of NEIU students. NEIU President Dr. Sharon Hahs was appointed by Governor Quinn in 2007.