A new report shows Kane County's plan to redevelop part of the old Settlers Hill landfill into a cross country facility will be a much dirtier task than officials expected. Yet, that reality may translate into millions of dollars to help implement the plan if the county can pull it off.
Because the site is a former landfill, any redevelopment is prohibited from cutting into the ground. That means grading the soil into a cross country track will require piling about 500,000 cubic yards of new dirt on top of what already exists at the site.
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Contrary to the adage, dirt isn't cheap, said county board member Mike Donahue, who is overseeing the redevelopment plan.
The county has about $9.2 million in an account set aside specifically for redevelopment of Settlers Hill. But Donahue said none of that cash should be used to develop the cross country facility. In fact, the need for dirt may actually work to the county's advantage.
Donahue said construction activity in the Kane County area generated about 1.1 million cubic yards of dirt, called clean fill, last year that contractors needed to get rid of. On average, they paid facilities about $55 per truck to dump their unwanted dirt among about a dozen facilities in the area.
Most of those receiving sites are on the north end of the county. Donahue envisions Settlers Hill becoming a temporary receiver for unwanted clean fill and charging a competitive rate at a more convenient dumping location for contractors in central Kane County.
"It presents a good business opportunity," Donahue said in an interview Wednesday.
The county will take the next 30 days to develop a pro forma and discuss the idea with Waste Management. The company is the county's partner in operating the landfill.
Donahue wants Waste Management to oversee the operation of receiving the clean fill, inspecting it for pollution and working through the permitting process with the Illinois EPA. In return, Waste Management would get a cut of the clean fill profits.
To sweeten the deal, Donahue said the landfill actually has the capacity to take on up to 900,000 cubic yards of clean fill. That would involve raising the start/finish area of the cross country track by up to 15 feet, which would not be a problem, Donahue said.
More dirt equals more truck traffic to and from the site, a concern some citizens have raised in letters to the county board. Donahue said the area already has high traffic. Another concern involves the design of the cross country track.
The plan calls for a 500-meter start/finish area. The NCAA typically wants 600 meters. Donahue said he doesn't expect that to be a problem.
"The NCAA routinely grants waivers down to 400 meters because the feasibility of having a starting area of 600 meters is pretty low for most facilities," Donahue said. "And there's a substantial economic benefit to having that kind of facility. It could become a permanent host site for national events. That would draw a tremendous amount of tourism and economic development to the county."
Waste Management will likely decide within the next 30 days if it is on board with the clean fill plan.
If not, Donahue said the county will investigate moving ahead with the plan by contracting with a third party. If that still isn't viable, Donahue said the cross country facility idea might die.
"I often think about that," Donahue said. "My feeling is if that happened, we would look at scaling this back and look at doing just more of a recreational trail there."
A full cross country facility will likely take three years to create before it is ready for the first pair of running shoes.