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WGLT, an NPR station in central Illinois, is following every move at the Rivian manufacturing plant in Normal, Illinois. The electric vehicle startup has gone from stealth mode to big-time player in the auto world, attracting attention (and big money) from companies like Ford and Amazon.

With Proposed Expansion, Rivian Agrees To Play Nice With Neighbors

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Area in red shows planned expansion of Rivan's plant that is seen to the right across Rivian Motorway.

Neighbors of the Rivian plant in Normal are concerned a proposed expansion could threaten the area’s rural tranquility.

The electric automaker has plans to expand onto a 380-acre parcel of land on the west side of Rivian Motorway, across the road from the existing plant. The parcel is currently zoned agricultural and would be reclassified as manufacturing if approved by the Town of Normal. 

In a virtual meeting of the Normal Planning Commission on Wednesday, Rivan's communications director, Zach Dietmeier, said Rivian has preliminary plans to use the land for light manufacturing along with logistics and warehousing. 

Dietmeier said that more detailed site plans are forthcoming, but he assured the commission that “Rivian is not interested in upsetting the balance of life in that area.”

During public comment, several residents said that while they were pleased to have Rivian as a neighbor, they worried about rezoning the entire 380-acre parcel as manufacturing. Many expressed concern about pollution and the effects of increased light and noise on the bucolic environment. 

Resident Brad Allen suggested a compromise, proposing breaking the parcel into two, leaving the smaller, western-most portion zoned agricultural. Support for the idea was echoed by several other residents. 

“We are absolutely amenable to leaving that agriculturally zoned,” said Dietmeier of the smaller portion that measures around 60 acres. Essentially “breaking off” that tract as part of a future plan is something Dietmeier said makes sense to Rivian. 

“We have no interest in that being a big factor for why this would not work out for both parties," he said. 

The commission agreed with the idea of considering the parcel in two parts, voting to recommend that 320 acres be rezoned as manufacturing and the remaining 60 acres staying as agricultural. 

The issue will come before the Normal Town Council on April 19. 

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