Galesburg City Council drops funding for second study on Lake Storey expansion project

Updated: Jun. 8, 2021 at 12:56 AM CDT
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GALESBURG, Ill. (KWQC) - The Galesburg City Council passed a budget adjustment Monday evening to remove funding for a second Lake Storey expansion study from the 2021 budget.

The city already conducted feasibility study. The plan would have increased the size of the lake by several hundred acres, but required the acquisition of at least eight homes and privately owned land.

Last month the Knox County board passed a resolution in opposition of the proposed project. The plan also drew criticism from some in the community, including the Thompson family who have farmed their land for several generations and would have lost a significant portion.

“I was at a cattle sale and a neighbor said why are you buying cows, your pasture is going to be under water,” Zeph Thompson, who now runs the family farm, said, “Raising my kids on the place where I grew up was the only reason I returned after college.”

The city council voted three to two, with one abstaining, to remove the funding from this year’s budget. The goal of the project was to grow economic development, housing, and tourism in the area.

Multiple people spoke during public comment at Monday’s city council meeting. The vast majority were in opposition.

“Frankly the land is not available. And we learned that fairly early on. You can’t force people to sell their land and you can’t in my view it’s immoral to take people’s land,” Galesburg Mayor Peter Schwartzman said in an interview after the meeting adjourned.

City leaders are now looking towards what’s next. Councilman Bradley Hix was supportive of the project and said the city needs to do something to spark growth.

“I think we need to find a project that would be good for the community and everybody or most people could support,” he said.

The mayor said he’s eager to work with the community to come up with other solutions to help grow the city.

For now, it’s a sigh of relief for property owners near Lake Storey, including the Thompsons -- who made it clear their land is not for sale.

“We don’t know if it’s over. We’ll be back here if it’s not over. Because obviously we are not willing to give up our farm, our home, our dreams,” Blair Thompson said.

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