Homewood Planning and Zoning Commission Finds Black Issues “Irrelevant” – At yesterday’s Zoning and Planning Commission Public Hearing, city officials and employees apparently found Black issues to be “irrelevant” to the topic of rezoning the Calumet Country Club. The zoning of the country club has been the topic of discussion at many hours of Zoning and Planning Commission meetings over the past several days. Diversified Partners, a real estate development company based in Arizona, plans on utilizing the site for a warehouse development project.
At yesterday’s meeting, Southland Black Chamber of Commerce & Industry President & CEO and The Southland Journal’s publisher, Dr. Cornel Darden Jr., had the opportunity to address the commission during both cross-examination public comments. During his first address, he was repeatedly interrupted and was told that his line of questioning was irrelevant. Included in his cross-examination were the following questions:
- Are you aware that 9 times of out 10, the Village of Homewood does not procure services or products from Black businesses?
- Are you aware that the Calumet Country Club was built in 1901?
- Do you know if the Calumet Country Club allowed to let Black people participate in the activities of the club and/or become members of the club in 1901 or the decades following?
- Are you aware that the Southland Black Chamber of Commerce and many of our members have spent a great deal of time in Springfield advocating for and successfully passing Senate Bill 0177 to stop the discrimination by the Village of Homewood with the penalty of not dispersing the Village of Homewood’s money received from motor fuel taxes?
- Do you know what aquaponics is?
- Do you know what aquaponics farming is?
- Are you aware that the Morrison Group LLC will be building an aquaponics farming business on the proposed site?
- Are you aware that the Morrison Group LLC will be a minority-certified company, which is a protected class from discrimination per Illinois state law in business and contracting by entities such as the Village of Homewood which I am willing to bet does little to zero business with Black-owned businesses?
Dr. Darden was escorted away from the podium by village police officers after his line of questions was cut off at the 5-minute time limit mark. When he attempted to sit in the hallway waiting area, he was asked to leave by police officers because they had already let another person into the building while Dr. Darden was speaking. Dr. Darden questioned their line of thinking in this matter, because he had not yet left the building, and said that he was planning on attending the rest of the meeting so he could further address the commission during the public comments portion.
His attempted removal was also in violation of the Open Meetings Act, which states, “The General Assembly further declares it to be the public policy of this State that its citizens shall be given…the right to attend all meetings at which any business of a public body is discussed or acted upon in any way.”
A gentleman who was also seated in the hallway got up and left the building at that time, providing Dr. Darden with his seat. When asked about that interaction, Dr. Darden said, “I truly thank that man for his generosity, however, he gave up his seat when he did not have to. I had no intention of leaving after I spoke, and by attempting to remove me because they made the mistake of allowing another person into the building, they were violating my right to attend.” He was able to provide his public comments later.
Dr. Darden also provided a statement to The Southland Journal’s editorial team, stating that, “I think that it’s mighty peculiar, because as I understand the ordinance, however limited my understanding may be, I feel like my questions were extremely relevant.
“I believe that the zoning commission has the power and authority by law to interpret the ordinance itself. So no matter what the ordinance says explicitly, the Planning and Zoning Commission can interpret it any way it sees fit. And with a conundrum like that, it sounds like a question for a higher authority like an appellate court or supreme court or something like that.
“But again, with my limited understanding of the ordinance, ostensibly, the planning and zoning commission appears to have no respect for Black people and Black businesses, so they feel that racism and discrimination of Black businesses and Black people have no bearing on the uses of particular areas of the Village of Homewood, and that when considering the zoning and rezoning of any area of Homewood, that the historical concerns of Black people and Black businesses are irrelevant. If the zoning ordinance has any concern for the adverse affect on the community that a zoning change would make, then why wouldn’t the adverse affects that the current zoning for that property has had on the Black community be relevant?
“Earlier today, a gentleman spoke about his experience with the Calumet County Club as a little boy. He spoke about how he was kicked out at the age of 11. He has to drive by that place all the time now, always remembering the way they shunned him as a child. Although he didn’t explicitly support the warehouse development, he did not speak against it, and would like to see the property redeveloped.
“So do Black people and Black businesses not matter? Or do only the opinions of white people and white logic matter when considering a change in zoning and the adverse affects?”
The Southland Journal spoke with two city officials after the meeting. Both officials stated that they did not find Dr. Darden’s question relevant to the topic of zoning. City attorney Chris Cummings stated, “His questions were not relevant to the topic of zoning…there are specific rules we have to follow.”
Homewood Planning and Zoning Commission Finds Black Issues “Irrelevant”