Thursday, June 07, 2007

More Branson, Illinois

I’m not the only one who thinks the whole “Let’s build our own Branson” idea seems a little fishy:

SPRINGFIELD - A land swap aimed at paving the way for a Branson, Mo.-like vacation destination to be built in Southern Illinois is on indefinite hold.

At the request of environmental groups, a state lawmaker put the brakes on the plan Wednesday, saying he wants to make sure the groups get a chance to review the proposal.


[Executive director of the Illinois Environmental Council, Jonathan] Goldman said it was alarming to environmental groups because the proposal surfaced as the spring legislative session was set to adjourn.

"It is typical end-of-session sleight of hand," said Goldman.

Further, he said the lack of information coming from the company raises questions.

"No one knows who this company is," said Goldman.

Since the project became public, the company has not made representatives available to answer questions. Repeated telephone messages left with company owner Anthony Watkins have not been returned.

Late Tuesday, Jacquie Vick, who is listed on the company web-site as a media contact, referred questions about the project to Andrew Ross, a spokesman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Ross said he was unaware the company had directed inquiries to him and reiterated an earlier statement that the state is aware of the project.

State Sen. Dave Luechtefeld, R-Okawville, said he has been skeptical of the project, but said he is willing to let the land swap move forward as long as the state is protected in the transaction.

This may all be a very legitimate project, but it’s sure dressed in scamware. I think we need to think on this one before we start turning over state parks to pie-in-the-sky developers. Personally, I’m not buying that this thing is going to bring a Branson-like boon to Perry County and I’m more than a little suspicious about what’s really going on here.

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