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posted: 8/21/2012 5:31 PM

Environmental concerns, time playing role in former landfill's redevelopment

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Waste Management officials have tentatively given Kane County the green light to proceed with plans to redevelop the 700-acre Fabyan Parkway campus, which includes the former Settler's Hill landfill.

A letter from Waste Management outlines the company's views as the overseer of the landfill property even as county officials begin to etch out which parts of the redevelopment plan will come first. But not all county board members are ready to rush forward with creating bike paths, cross country tracks and entertainment venues just yet.

Waste Management hired an engineer to give a preliminary review to the county's plan. The letter mainly encouraged the county to be mindful that a landfill contains many potential environmental hazards when determining exactly where to place amenities, break ground or direct foot traffic.

"Planners should be reminded to not overlook the unique conditions, requirements and restrictions associated with the care and management of closed landfills," the letter reads. It highlights some particular areas where the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency and/or the Illinois Department of Natural Resources may have to sign off before the county can proceed.

For those reasons, county board members Barb Wojnicki and Drew Frasz urged commissioning an environmental impact study before going much further with any plans. But fellow members of the Development Committee shot that idea down with an eye on first determining the costs and possible profits that may come out of the redevelopment ideas.

"There was nothing contained in the (Waste Management) letter that would alter or modify the current status of the plan in its preliminary form," said county board member Mike Donahue, who led the task force that wrote the redevelopment plan.

"We can't do anything substantive to move the plan forward if we don't understand the costs and revenues," Donahue said. "I know that people think we haven't given the environmental aspect of this its due. Believe me, I know the importance. But I don't want to put the cart before the horse."

Donahue, like every other member of the county board, is up for re-election in November. He said doing the environmental study first would delay any real progress on the plan until 2013. That's well after the election when Donahue may no longer be on the board.

"I'm not sure it's in the best interests of the public to push this to the next administration," Donahue said. "I don't support that at all. I would not have put so much work into this thing if I knew it would get kicked into the land of the unknown in 2013."

Part of Donahue's work was the formation of a timeline for the project. He presented it to the public for the first time Tuesday. It calls for public hearings and plan revisions based on those through September. The full county board and forest preserve commission would then take a final vote in October, before the elections. Plans would then go to the Illinois EPA for review while the county and forest preserve district ironed out who will have ownership, maintenance and operational responsibility at the campus. Donahue expects construction would begin in fall of 2013 with the cross country track, multipurpose trails and stormwater management improvements. The mountain biking and winter recreation amenities would happen in 2014. The sports and training facility, along with the proposed outlook observatory would come in 2015. The music venue, conference center on the old jail site and golf course improvements would be added as the market dictates. That means they could happen right away, not at all, or sometime in the near future depending on a developer or some other sponsoring partner bringing some proposal to the county to create those elements of the plan.

Forest Preserve District President John Hoscheit said he supports Donahue's push for a vote before the November election.

"There is some impetus to stall this, which I can't understand," Hoscheit said. "I'm confident in the end we'll have a facility that the public supports that will be well thought out and planned. It's carrying out a promise we made to Geneva when we put our garbage there."

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