The Lake County Board District 13 Democratic candidates disagree on whether the county should continue to purchase and set aside open space in these tough economic times.
Sandra Hart, a 43-year-old stay-at-home mother and vice-president of the Lake Bluff Park District Board, said now is the time for the Lake County Forest Preserve District to purchase open space because the soft economy has made land buys favorable.
Anthony Soler, a 38-year-old firefighter from Waukegan, said open space should match growth in Lake County, and because growth has stalled, land acquisitions should stall with it.
Robert Glueckert, a 51-year-old real estate broker and former Avon Township interim-assessor, said voters should be asked via referendum if the forest board should continue buying open space. He added that all information about the impact an open space purchase has on taxpayers should be publicized and explained.
Glueckert, Hart, and Soler are vying for the Democrat nomination in the March 20 primary election for District 13, which covers all of Lake Bluff and portions of Gurnee, Waukegan and North Chicago.
The winner will face the Republican primary nominee -- David Barkhausen, a 61-year-old life insurance consultant or former Illinois state senator or Rick Lesser, a 56-year-old small business owner and attorney from Lake Bluff -- in the November general election.
Lake County Board members also serve on the Lake County Forest Preserve District Board.
Glueckert said the county should seek referendum approval from voters about continuing open space purchase policies. Prior to that vote, the county should provide accurate information about what the purchases would mean to taxpayers. Because purchasing land for the forest district takes that property off the tax rolls, he said, it could lead to higher taxes.
"The forest preserve district should continue to choose the land purchases with a master plan in mind," he said. "But, funding for those purchases in bulk, should be a voter decision."
Hart said voters overwhelmingly approved a referendum in 2008 that gave the forest district $148 million to acquire land, showing that residents want more open space.
"While the downturn in the economy has had dire consequences for so many of our residents, the soft real estate market has enabled the forest preserves to make land acquisitions at a favorable cost to the taxpayers," she said. "Interest rates are low, which makes these purchases even more advantageous."
Soler said open space and forest preserve land should grow proportionately, but taxes should not be increased to buy land during tough economic times.
"I feel that as Lake County develops, open spaces should be secured," he said. "Since that is not the case at this time, I do not see a need to expand for the sake of buying land because of the depressed real estate market."