It's one of the largest economic development opportunities Kane County officials have been involved in for several years, but neither candidate for county board chairman has detailed any definitive vision for what they would like to see at the 700-acre Fabyan Parkway campus.
Republican Chris Lauzen and Democrat Sue Klinkhamer met in another debate Thursday evening in Batavia. It was the first public meeting of the two candidates since the county board and Kane County Forest Preserve Commission voted to approve a concept plan for the site's development, which includes two former landfills.
Klinkhamer said she has no issues with the vision to construct a cross country course, observation tower, small concert venue and other amenities. She is against encouraging mountain biking at the Fabyan campus, particularly in the east section of Fabyan Woods.
"Looking at it for tourism, I think it's essential that they at least go through with this master plan," Klinkhamer said. "They've gotten comments from the public, though I think it hasn't been enough."
Lauzen said his greatest concerns are the potential environmental issues associated with construction on land containing former garbage dumps. He cited the recent problem with methane gas leaking from one of the landfills into residential areas in Geneva and Batavia as justification for that concern. He also favors preserving the oak trees in Fabyan Woods over mountain biking.
Lauzen also hinted again at some overall concerns with the county and forest preserve developing commercial uses on the site that are run by either of the taxing bodies.
"I have concerns about why we are competing with private interests," Lauzen said.
That echoes comments Lauzen made at the last public debate about operations that already exist on the campus.
"Why is it that as a county taxpayer I own an ice-skating rink?" Lauzen said. "Maybe there's some reason that I'm missing."
A key element of the possible future redevelopment of the Fabyan property is the disposition of the old county jail site. The current county board has a variety of opinions on keeping the land to create an arboretum or some other public use or selling it for private development as a hotel and/or convention center.
Asked Thursday night for their views on the jail, neither Klinkhamer nor Lauzen committed to either of those stances.
Klinkhamer said, if elected, she'd work with the county board to get a consensus for what to do with the site.
Lauzen said the jail site should be included in the overall plan for the Fabyan campus. He expressed skepticism about the private development potential of the jail land because of the long history of the jail being located there. He hinted that building materials used to construct the jail that still linger in the soil may be problem in any future use.
"It's our property, our responsibility," Lauzen said. "But I think it's going to be more expensive than we think."
Both candidates also said they oppose gravel mining in county forest preserves. That may be a moot position as the county board chairman does not sit on the forest preserve commission and does not get a say on that issue. The county board could, however, pass a nonbinding resolution opposing such mining. County board members, with the exception of the county chairman, are also forest preserve commissioners.
Kane: Neither candidate committed to plan for jail site