Addison officials say they're exploring the possible purchase of the former Driscoll Catholic High School site and options for how they might use the land in the future.
The village board's committee of the whole recently discussed the idea and invited input from members of the plan commission, citizen advisory board and other Addison taxing bodies.
Village President Larry Hartwig said about 40 people attended the session and all appeared in favor of pursuing the purchase of the land at 555 N. Lombard Road. The site is owned by the Diocese of Joliet, which closed the 43-year-old school last spring citing declining enrollment and financial woes.
"At the end of the day, I asked how people felt because they are really the leaders of the community. No one spoke up against it," Hartwig said. "We got kind of a unanimous encouragement from the people in attendance to at least pursue this."
Officials are considering several ideas for the land, he said, including tearing down the building and using the site as open space for Addison Park District or nearby Addison Trail High School.
Hartwig said the village also would consider holding the property until the housing market recovers, and then selling it for redevelopment.
"No decisions have been made, but at least the village would be in control to decide what is in the best long-term interest of Addison," Hartwig said.
To pay for the site, Addison would need to borrow money and repay the bond through a property tax increase. Hartwig said he could not disclose how much Addison is willing to spend, but indicated taxes would increase about $20 a year for the owner of a $300,000 home. In addition, Addison does not need taxpayer permission to take out a bond because it is a home-rule community.
"We realize this is a tough, tough, time to be doing that, especially while we're cutting all the things out of our budget, reducing staff through attrition and not filling jobs," Hartwig said. "But November is our first opportunity to do a referendum and that is too far off. That's why I thought we'd get a cross-section of the community at last week's meeting.
"Plus, if the land got sold to someone else, we'd pay off the bond and taxes would go down," he said.
Selling the Driscoll property raises several issues, said Doug Delaney, assistant to Joliet Diocese Bishop J. Peter Sartain.
First, he said the asking price is undetermined because the former Driscoll building needs major repairs. Second, the Diocese wants to sell the land to a group that will use it for purposes in line with the Diocese's values.
"The Bishop's hope would be that it would be property that is useful and helpful to the community, and parks or ball fields seem to be in line with what the Diocese would want," he said. "But I can't say if holding the land for redevelopment is something the Bishop would support."
Both Delaney and Hartwig confirmed no formal meeting has occurred on the matter, but Addison officials hope to schedule one before the end of the month.