By Audrey Moon

ROCKFORD — The lawsuit against the city of Rockford over a controversial public housing development was dismissed this month by a judge.
The suit, filed in 17th Judicial Circuit Court in Winnebago County, challenged the constitutionality of the Rockford City Council’s 7-5 decision in January to approve a tentative plat map for the site on South New Towne Drive.

Neighbors, who say the nearly $12 million project will cause property values and quality of life to decline, filed the suit.
Judge Eugene Doherty said in a court document that the plaintiffs “lack legal standing to contest the city’s approval of the plat.” And with regard to the constitutionality of the claim, he said those who filed the lawsuit cited no provisions in the U.S. or Illinois constitutions that give them the rights they said they have.

“We are very disappointed,” said attorney James Hess, who filed the lawsuit on behalf of several neighbors. “Whether an appeal will be filed is under discussion but not been decided.”

Construction continues to move forward on the 49-unit project for public housing residents currently living in the Fairgrounds Valley complex on the city’s west side.

In a statement, Rockford Housing Authority CEO Ron Clewer said, “We believed from the beginning that through the legal process justice would prevail. We are thankful for the process and the decision.”

Plans for 6.2 acres in the 500 block of South New Towne Drive raised the ire of neighbors last summer when the development was announced by Gorman & Company of Wisconsin and the Housing Authority.

It is part of a larger plan to overhaul 1,100 Housing Authority units — work that will be managed by Gorman over the next five years.

Register Star reporter Georgette Braun contributed to this story