Kane County Forest Preserve District Commissioners voted Tuesday to send five of the 22 residential structures it owns to face the wrecking ball, while also adding up to 250 acres of new green space.
The district owns 16 homes it has acquired as part of land it's purchased over the years that either are or were used as staff residences. Of those, only five are occupied. The district also owns six additional homes it rents out. Five of those six homes are currently occupied. In other words, more than half the residential structures the district owns are vacant and are falling into disrepair. The rehab needed on all 22 structures totals more than $184,000. To cut that cost, commissioners voted to demolish five structures either in need of the most repair or of least benefit.
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It was an easy enough vote for four of the properties in the Campton, Glenwood Park, LeRoy Oakes and Voyageur's Landing preserves since all are vacant. The vote wasn't as simple for the remaining property - at Burnidge Forest Preserve - on the demolition list, because there is a district employee living there who is five years from retirement.
Commissioner Debbie Allan said the district can still build the trail it wants to create in the preserve around the residence and let the employee stay until retirement. Indeed, one other property the district owns is mainly being kept from the demolition list because an employee living there will retire in the next couple years. Other commissioners, such as Tom VanCleave agreed, saying keeping the Burnidge house another five years wouldn't necessarily have a negative impact on the preserve.
The majority of commissioners had a different view, especially since the employee will be allowed to move into another home in a different part of the preserve.
"Our criteria was very simple," said Drew Frasz, the commissioner who oversaw the committee who selected the list of homes to demolish. "Do these homes offer a location where the person living there would be the eyes and ears of the forest preserve. This house is way out of the way. It prevents the public from being able to walk comfortably in a circular trail along the lake."
All five homes will be demolished, but the commissioners also took a vote to create something new. Commissioners voted to acquire land known as the Summers Family Trust property, along Granart Road in Big Rock Township, to add to adjacent forest preserve land. The commission voted to acquire the land by purchase or eminent domain, whichever is necessary. The land would add about 250 more acres to the forest preserves.