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updated: 7/11/2012 8:09 AM

Thoughts turn to sale of former Kane jail

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With the controversies about putting a concert venue and mountain biking trails in the east segment of Fabyan Woods mostly resolved, Kane County Board members will now turn to an issue that may see even more intense debate: the selling of the old county jail site.

The latest revisions of the plan to redevelop the 700-acre site that contains the Settler's Hill landfill envision the east segment of Fabyan Woods untouched by anything other than some pedestrian paths. But it still includes plans to turn the old jail site into a hotel/convention center through some sort of private or public/private development.

"We built the new jail in my district, and one of the things promised at the time was that we would sell (the old jail property) and take those proceeds to help cover the cost of the new jail," said county board member Mark Davoust. "I still support that."

Davoust also supports an expanded golf course that would bring a driving range and practice greens for the first time to Settler's Hill. He also supports the concept of a 6-hole "executive course" for short rounds.

In contrast, several board members, including Phil Lewis, have expressed an interest in keeping the jail site in the county's hands. Suggestions of some type of arboretum or other public use of the site have been mentioned on multiple occasions.

"I think we should transfer the jail site to the forest preserve," Lewis said. "I'm a strong advocate of that."

What ultimately happens may be driven by the profit-making potential of the old jail site. On Tuesday, board members placed the value of the 28-acre section of the campus at $5 million. But board members voted down a proposal that would have placed a definitive value on the old jail land and a hotel/convention center.

The task force studying the potential development recommended a $39,000 economic impact study. Board members quashed that plan with fears of wasting money to investigate proposals that neither the full county board nor the forest preserve district have weighed in on yet. Board member Jim Mitchell also said he wants something in writing from Waste Management that gives an opinion on the technical ability to create any or all of the envisioned developments. Waste Management oversees the Settler's Hill landfill.

"Why would we spend money to look at something that we may not be able to do?" Mitchell asked.

Fabyan task force Chairman Mike Donahue said he doesn't think the lack of an economic impact study will be a huge hurdle, at least in bringing the final draft of the developments envisioned to the county board and forest preserve district.

But several county board members said they'll have a tough time making any decisions without the economic impact study.

"I want to do a proper vetting of the ideas," board member Jesse Vazquez said in an interview. "If any of it is a pie-in-the-sky dream that we're going to make a whole lot of money, but we're really not, I'd like to know that."

Jail: Board denies task force's recommendation for economic impact study

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