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updated: 9/10/2012 11:56 PM

Neighbors: Keep Fabyan preserve out of Settler's Hill plans

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Opposition to including the Fabyan Forest Preserve's eastern woods in the proposed Settler's Hill landfill recreational complex were reiterated at a public hearing on the project Monday night.

About 45 people attended the hearing in St. Charles, and many of those who spoke were concerned with the plan's effect on the 25-acre remnant of the "Dark Woods" old-growth oak forest that white settlers found when they moved in to the area in the 1830s.

"The woods should not be a conduit. It should not have roads running through it," said Virginia Babcock of Batavia, whose environmental work includes establishing the city's Tree Commission and co-founding the Braeburn Marsh Defenders.

The plan shows 8-foot-wide multiuse trails connecting from Route 25 through the woods to the landfill complex.

The trails would enable people using the Fox River Trail to enter the recreational complex.

"We could destroy that place very quickly -- in a matter of a few years -- if it is misused," Babcock said.

Several others criticized the committee for seeking to do a fiscal impact study before it does an environmental impact study, especially since the complex would be built over landfills -- although the amenities would not necessarily be built directly over garbage ditches, however.

"The cost-to-construct portion of the fiscal impact study cannot possibly be quantified" until Waste Management, the landfill's operator, specifies any retrofitting needed to meet their post-closure obligations, said Kathleen Valle of Geneva.

The plan drew supporters, however, including Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns, Geneva Chamber of Commerce Director Jean Gaines and Geneva Economic Development Commission President Patrick Neary.

"What good is natural beauty if it can't be accessed in a mild-mannered way?" Burns said of the plans for the multiuse trails.

The concept plan includes county, forest preserve district and private land in the 780-acre site at Kirk Road and Fabyan Parkway.

It suggests a hotel and conference center, a cross-country running competition trail, an observatory/outlook, an 18-hole golf course, sled hills, a fishing pond and an outdoor concert amphitheater. Private investors would be sought to fund some parts, such as the hotel.

The Fabyan Forest Preserve concerns developed when the initial plan included mountain-biking trails in the woods. Residents of the nearby neighborhood rallied, saying the woods have already been degraded by illegal mountain-biking.

They, and supporters from elsewhere in the county, have pleaded the preserve be kept as a passive area, for walkers.

Even though the mountain-biking trails were moved out of the woods and into the landfill portion of the plan, opponents are skeptical whether that would keep the bicyclists out.

Former county board member Terry Bermes said one of the trails was "deliciously close" to the woods, and another speaker humorously likened it to putting bottles of bourbon in front of alcoholics.

The county board will vote on whether to hire a consultant for a fiscal study, at a cost of $39,000, at its meeting at 9:50 a.m. Tuesday.

The Fabyan Utilization subcommittee will meet at 9 a.m. Wednesday. Both are in the county board room in Building A at the Kane County Government Center, 719 S. Batavia Ave., Geneva.

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