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July 14, 2016 9:55 AM, EDT

Old Dominion Puts Brakes on Plan for Illinois Truck Depot

John Trapp sat in a second row seat at an Aurora City, Illinois, Council meeting quietly watching — which belied how he really felt.

"I'm ecstatic," he said, leaning back. "OK, and right now, I feel a little bit of relief."

It was relief he shared with his neighbors in the 17-home Ferry Road Farms subdivision at Meridian and Sunrise roads, just off Ferry Road between Eola Road and Route 59.

They had heard earlier in the day that Old Dominion Freight Line had withdrawn its petition to develop a truck depot at Meridian and Sunrise, just across the street from Trapp's house. John Trapp, his wife Denise and subdivision resident Lyle Kipp came to the July 12 City Council meeting just to make sure it was true.

Old Dominion ranks No. 11 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest U.S. and Canadian for-hire carriers.

When a planned continuation of a public hearing on the development came up on the agenda, Alderman Robert O'Connor (at-large) serving as mayor pro-tem and chairing the meeting, announced that Old Dominion had pulled its petition for the truck depot development.

"I'm not going to be 61 feet from it," Trapp said. "I'm hoping to never see a truck terminal there."

The possibility still exists because Old Dominion owns the approximately 5-acre piece of land there and likely still intends to develop it.

As representatives of the trucking firm pointed out throughout the planning process — which included meetings with staff, the Planning Commission and the City Council's Planning and Development Committee — much of the area by their property on Aurora's northeast side and Naperville's northwest side has been zoned — and in many cases already developed — as office, warehouse, research and industrial uses since the 1970s.

Old Dominion's attorney Bruce Goldsmith, of Lisle-based Dykema Gossett, pointed out as much in a letter sent to city officials announcing the withdrawal.

"This area has generally been designated for ORI-type development on the DuPage County master plan (1985), the City of Naperville comprehensive plan, and is consistent with Aurora's own planning initiatives," Goldsmith wrote. "Moreover, commercial development has generally been moving west from Route 59 on the south side of Ferry Road as well as the Duke development on the north side of Ferry Road, where the city has approved over (3 million) square feet of ORI development."

The letter pointed out that Old Dominion found Aurora to have the workforce it needed for the generation of 125 jobs at first, and 200 jobs in five years.

Throughout the process, Old Dominion had made concessions to residents in Ferry Road Farms by adding higher berms and more landscaping — far more than required by Aurora ordinance.

The letter said the city "ignored" testimony by a sound engineer hired by the company who said changes in the Old Dominion plan would lower noise from the site to no more than "ambient" sound similar to, but less, than what nearby Interstate 88 generates.

The final straw appeared to be two conditions city officials added on. One was to have the company put up a 20-foot-high sound wall between the residents and the depot, similar to walls put up along highways. That would add expense and create new stormwater drainage problems, the letter said.

Another condition was that the city was requiring Old Dominion to get consent of another owner of a nearby lot to submit a petition for rezoning that lot with more restrictive uses.

The letter called that requirement "unprecedented and unachievable."

For the time being, residents of the roughly 70-year-old group of homes in Naperville Township, sandwiched between Naperville to the south and east, and Aurora to the north and west, will breathe easier, hoping that whatever development does come back to that property, it won't be a 24-hour, seven days a week operation.

"I look at those warehouses and offices along Ferry Road, and even those big ones, the parking lots are empty at night," said Denise Trapp.