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posted: 4/24/2012 12:01 AM

Kane County nixes plan for large Ravinia-style venue

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The idea to bring a Ravinia-type music venue to the central portion of Kane County was silenced Monday night.

But there is still a chance a smaller outdoor concert location may become one of a dozen attractions if the county decides to redevelop the 700-acre complex that includes the Settler's Hill and Midway Landfills.

Board members discussed the future of the site Monday in front of an audience that seemed mostly opposed to any size concert venue in the eastern portion of the Fabyan Woods Forest Preserve.

The preserve is a densely wooded but underused part of the complex that nearby residents said contains many century-old oak trees.

However, it's also the only location on the complex capable of housing a Ravinia-sized venue along with the parking needed to accommodate visitors. Board member Phil Lewis was only person to speak in favor of a Ravinia copycat, but he said he never envisioned clear-cutting trees in favor of a massive parking lot.

"I have never, ever advocated cutting down trees," Lewis said.

With that, Kane County's own version of Ravinia died. But there is still space on the east side of the campus, toward Kirk Road, for either a small- (800 to 3,000 seats) music venue or a medium-sized (up to 8,000 seats) concert outlet.

The concept also includes:

• An 886-foot overlook observatory capable of seeing the Chicago skyline on a clear day.

• A Settler's Hill Golf Course expansion.

• A cross-country running/skiing trail capable of hosting high school, Big Ten and even national competitions.

• Mountain bike trails that could draw enthusiasts from all over the Chicago area.

• Nature trails with exercise stations and Payton's Hill-type stair climbing feature.

• A privately developed resort or hotel/conference center.

The plan also calls for construction of an internal roadway to link all the venues on the site.

Board members also said they'd like to see a new Metra stop closer to where the Kane County Cougars play to alleviate some of the new traffic the attractions would bring.

None of the concepts are set in stone. A Kane County Forest Preserve District committee will consider the concepts at a meeting Thursday morning.

A major focus of the county board's deliberations moving forward will likely be what happens to the old Kane County jail site.

The old jail is in the process of being demolished, and it is one of the likely locations for the resort or hotel/conference center in the concept plan.

But doing that would probably mean selling the land to a private developer. Board member John Hoscheit said he doesn't believe there's any interest in the county government running that type of operation. Hoscheit also said, as the president of the forest preserve district, he's not interested in the forest district buying the old jail site, either.

"That property was valued at $7 million," Hoscheit said. "It's 27 acres. We could buy 500 acres for that out west."

Board members generally agreed any idea that's ultimately implemented will have to demonstrate beforehand that it would pay for itself, have outside organizations willing to fund it, or fall within the costs that could be absorbed by the $4 million the county has in a special fund legally tied to the reuse of the old landfill sites.

The board has a task force led by Mike Donahue that will continue exploring the concepts at a meeting scheduled for May 8.

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