Open Letter to Alderman Kris Povlsen, 12/1

Mr. Povlsen:

At last Monday’s City Council meeting, when the Council voted to approve tax abatements and fee waivers for the newest 3M project in town (“Project Oak”), you commented that some people misperceive such incentives as corporate welfare, whereas you would encourage us to think of these incentives as investments in our future.

Mr. Povlsen, such incentives might be either one. You know me as a person who has been opposing the new DeKalb Business Center warehouse project in a big way, yet you’ve not heard a peep from me or any of the Smart Growth-DeKalb group regarding Oak/3M. Why is that? It’s because we know the difference between a good deal and a bad one.
Continue reading Open Letter to Alderman Kris Povlsen, 12/1

Letter #3 of the “Blacklist Collection”

One of the reasons I began blogging here is that the Chronicle suddenly began suppressing my letters-to-the-editor and I was looking for other outlets for my views. Any criticism of the DCEDC and its executive director, Roger Hopkins, seems to be off-limits. However, I cannot omit my opinions on his involvement in warehouse mania because I believe it’s a significant factor that should not be ignored.

I do not know whether this has anything to do with their publisher’s involvement with the DCEDC or not, but I think that’s a fair “guesstimate” since they had no problem printing at least a half-dozen of my letters on other topics from March-August. Also, I know of others whose letters expressing opposition to the Business Center project also have not been published. Bottom line is, I feel that they are abusing the public trust. And since I’ve kind of made a nuisance of myself over my beliefs, I’ll probably never see my opinions on newsprint again. Therefore I blog.

Letter to the Editor, 22 November 2005


Many of the people who publicly support the Keating/Rockefeller/Business Center warehouse project have a financial interest in it. Most of those who are vocal in opposition would be living close to it. More of us who live in the city and who don’t have such high personal stakes should take a closer look and hop off the fence, one way or another.

That’s what I did, and have since joined the folks who have seen the plans and say this warehouse has the size of Godzilla and all the charm of Stalag 17.
Continue reading Letter #3 of the “Blacklist Collection”

Logistics Growth in Chicago Area

Well, we knew from the volume of articles we’ve found that logistics is in full boom here, but now we’ve found the numbers: logistics is experiencing 12-15% growth that will continue over the next few years.

Most of this growth comes from 3PLs, which stands for “third-party logistics,” a newer trend where the developer builds and owns the building and provides short-term contracts to tenants; say, 3-5 years. This relieves the tenant from the possibility of getting stuck with a building that they eventually may not need due to market changes.

Other highlights:
— there was a 9.1% vacancy rate in 2004, expected to spike this year.
— of 10 million s.f. in logistics space opening this year, only 20% of it is pre-leased.

What we can expect, then–in addition to more and larger warehouse proposals–is that more of the developers will want to build on spec and as we see new buildings we will also see more vacancies and turnovers.

Source 1
Source 2

Warehousing, the Boom-bust Cycle, & Foreign Trade Zones

Here is a copy of the letter I sent to City Council members today. It references my Monday speech at the public hearing (see below) but also discusses a new area of concern.

Dear Aldermen & Mayor,

Last Monday at the City Council public hearing, I urged you not to “put all our tax eggs into one industrial basket.” This is because I grew up in steel mill country in Northwest Indiana. Steel paid for everything there. Schools, everything. When I compare the tiny amount that my parents paid in property tax with my own bloated tax bill–even adjusting for inflation–I could cry. But the blessing was mixed, because when the steel industry did poorly we all suffered. In fact, this is how I ended up in DeKalb: in the mid-80s the mills became unable to compete with Japan producers (& their protectionist policies) and we suffered major job losses. Families scattered, looking for work, mine included. My sister went to Houston. My husband and I landed here in DeKalb. Most days I believe we ended up with the better deal (except when I am shoveling snow). But the point is, we paid very dearly for relying so heavily on one industry. Only Las Vegas can get away with that!
Continue reading Warehousing, the Boom-bust Cycle, & Foreign Trade Zones

Public Hearing on Warehouse Annexation

The following is a copy of the speech I made at the City Council at the public hearing Monday night. I’m including it because it summarizes my views & because my next entry will make more sense if you see the speech first.

Good evening. Thank you for hearing me tonight.

I live in the city. The warehouse would not be in my back yard. I don’t have a problem with annexation or a zoning change, and if Mr. Keating wanted to build a cute office park in that area, that would be fine, just dandy. My one and only objection to this plan is that it’s a warehouse.
Continue reading Public Hearing on Warehouse Annexation

Regarding the Road Trip

The hosts were gracious, the company good. If Mr. Keating were trying to sell me a car–or a nice little office park–he might have made the sale.

I understand a whole lot better the rationale for embracing another warehouse–not that I buy it, only that I understand now what they (Keating, Hopkins et al) are trying to say. It’s this: if we build a warehouse, other types of business will follow. When you point out that the actual pattern here is that warehouses pretty much have attracted only more warehouses, they counter that we have yet to reach the “critical mass” necessary for more diverse growth. They were not able to prove this hypothesis on the road trip, though; there was a whole lot of comparing of apples and oranges instead.
Continue reading Regarding the Road Trip

Road Trip!

Today Gerard Keating took us for a road trip. A group of the alderman, the Mayor, a couple of folks from the city staff, some of the press and a few of the citizens of the area were all invited to see various developments in the Aurora, Naperville and Warrenville areas. In some respects, it was eye opening.

We learned why the city is pushing the Planned Development-Industrial zoning instead of Office, Research, Industrial zoning. It turns out that with ORI zoning, as long as the incoming businesses meet the zoning requirements, the city has no say in its planning. With PDI, not only must the projects meet the zoning requirements, but they must also submit their plans to the city council (and I assume the public) for approval of the project.

We also saw a few nice business parks. These developments were well manicured with nice looking buildings and a fair amount green space. As for the mix, with the exception of Farmers Insurance, the parks were by far a mix of warehousing and light manufacturing, or Office and Research and light manufacturing. The anomaly was Farmers Insurance. It was in the same park as the warehouses. they all had residential housing, schools and such near by.

What this trip did not show me was the dream Mr. Keating wants us all to believe. That he can credibly bring in a mix of businesses by starting with a warehouse. Once the warehouses are involved, office and research businesses do not follow. This fact was driven home even more when were we taken through the Cantera Business Park. This park was chalk full of offices and then had some light industrial mixed in. There were no warehouses in this park, or at least none anywhere visible from the office buildings. Several good businesses were there (I’m partially biased, my job is located in the park).

To help emphasize the fact that warehousing/logistics do not mix well, take a look at Mr. Keating’s partner in the project, The Rockefeller Group. The Rockefeller Group has build a large number of very impressive business parks as well as Free Trade Zones (logistics centers). You will find when you visit their size that there is little mixing of Logistics centers with other businesses. Their parks are quite segregated in this respect. As always there are a few exception, but they are far from the norm.

In the handout given was a letter from Metro Transportation Group Inc., the company which did the traffic studies for this project and I believe Park 88. In the letter they state

“Research and development centers produce a very small percentage of trucks (2 percent per ITE) but generate approximately five (5) times the car traffic anticipated by a logistics center. The burden of this traffic on the roadway network would presumably have a much more dramatic impact than the expected addition of a few trucks in the evening peak hour. From a purely traffic perspective and based on a common square footage, logistics centers appear to easily have the least amount of cumulative impact on the roadway network.”

This may be true, but it is a half truth. It does not tell the whole story. 5 cars do not have the same wear and tear on a road as one truck. if you just go by weight one full truck at 70,000 pounds is 35 times as heave as a 2,000 pound car. The ad fact is is that the damage is not proportional to weight. I found this over on the site

On any road, the load per vehicle axle passing over it is mainly responsible for the amount of wear. According to a series of experiments carried out in the late 1950s, called the AASHTO Road Test, it was empirically determined that the effective wear done to the road is roughly proportional to the 4th power of vehicle weight. As a result, truck traffic almost always is the exclusive ‘real’ cause of road damage.

In an example, a hypothetical car weighs half a ton per axle. A 6-axle, 38-ton truck also traveling on the same road weighs in at over 6 tons per axle. The truck causes 20,736 times the wear of the car (12 times the car’s axle load, with a power of 4, yielding 12^4 = 20,736). Actual trucks can have even higher axle loads, though there is a wide variation in the configuration of trucks, with some having larger, wider tyres, or multiple tyres per axle, which will cause the exact figures to vary. While such figures sound dramatic, it should be realised that a single car causes almost no wear at all, so 20,000 times this figure still may not be very high. The wear is only measurable over an extended period.

Now, one has to understand that this test was performed a long time ago and only reflects the damage of the type of road used in the test. With that said, it shows that the damage is not directly proportional to the axle wight of the vehicle.

I don’t know how much more of a dramatic effect cars can have on the road network than the trucks than this! Sure, the Mr Keating and the Rockefeller Group are going to pave over Gurler Rd. with additional asphalt to bring it up to standard for handling trucks, but after 5 years of heavy truck usage tears it up because they didn’t put in a real road, who is going to have to pay to rebuild the road? Not them! It will be us, you and me!

City Barbs is Alive! The Whats and Whys of its Existence.

Hi Yall,

Don’t mind the southern accent, I’m a yankee who lived in Texas for too many years.

To start, let me explain the purpose of this blog. I will then move on to explain the motivation for why this blog was started.

We hope that this blog will start a discussion in the community of just where WE the citizens want it to grow. The industries, the schools, the parks and the over all character and spirit of the city.

We invite all of the citizens of Dekalb to make their opinions known. Either by responding to the articles posted, or drop us an email if you want to start authoring your own articles.

We do reserve the right to refuse, or to take down postings which are vulger, profane or slanderous. Spam, your selling your business is not allowed, you can mention any business in your posts as long as the post itself is not just an advertisement for the business.

Now for the motivations.

For 20+ years I lived in Texas, the cities and their governance were just there. I was either too naive or they were too quiet to attract my attention. I’m not sure which. To say the least, the towns just sprawled along the freeway between Ft. Worth and Dallas. With few exceptions it was hard to tell which city you were in because of the lack of any discernable character between towns. In the summer of 2004 the group I work for in my company was moved to up here in Illinois. The office is located in Warrenville. This move gave my wife and I the rare opportunity to actually look all around the area and choose where we wanted to live. The Naperville area didn’t impress us at all. It looked just like the towns we left in Texas, miles and miles of houses and strip malls. Granted, Naperville itself has a nice older and historic downtown but it seems to get blurred by the surrounding sprawl. Lake County was too expensive, Chicago was scary, any of the small towns along Route 30 and 34, though nice, seemed like they would offer a daily drive of more traffic than I ever care to be in.

After much searching, we found DeKalb. A small town with definitive borders. Good mix of old and new, a state university, easy access to work by way of I88, good restaurants, growing but not exploding. We could see living in this town a good long time.

Sadly the honeymoon is over. We are now seeing the problems the town is facing. Much of the problems are with its growth and how it it will support its citizens with schools and industry. Now we are learning of the solutions which have been proposed over the last 10 or so years with Warehousing, excuse me, I mean Logistics. DeKalb is currently slated by much of the city government to house some of the largest logistics (warehousing) centers in the area. Thousands of trucks with their pollution, the noise and lights, the mediocre jobs they offer. What a solution!

Since we plan on living here a good long time, we figure we need to get involved to help this city not lose the charms that drew us, and I’m sure many others, to it. To help it remain a place that the long time residents will want to continue to live. A place where all of our children can grow up and raise their children and grandchildren.