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posted: 1/27/2014 4:44 PM

Forest preserve won't provide land for Darien project

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  • D. "Dewey" Pierotti

    D. "Dewey" Pierotti


A developer who wants to build a multisports complex in Darien won't receive land for the project from the DuPage County Forest Preserve District.

Forest preserve President D. "Dewey" Pierotti Jr. said he will notify Darien officials the district doesn't want property it owns along Frontage Road -- between Lemont and Oldfield roads -- to be transferred to developer Sam Zagorac.

Pierotti already has drafted a letter that he plans to send to Darien Mayor Kathleen Weaver.

"I hope that Mr. Zagorac is able to find land for his multisports complex and establish a thriving business which will be a benefit to Darien," Pierotti wrote in the letter. "This, however, cannot occur on district land."

Pierotti is responding to a letter he received earlier this month from Weaver.

Darien City Administrator Bryon Vana said the Jan. 9 letter was sent at the request of the developer, who is interested in acquiring some land that's currently part of Oldfield Oaks Forest Preserve near Darien.

"We had no idea if this was something the forest preserve would do or not," Vana said on Monday. "We just did it as a really preliminary concept."

According to Weaver's letter, the proposed multisports complex would have about 200,000 square feet for training and sporting events for a variety of sports, including softball, baseball, soccer, football, lacrosse and volleyball.

The complex also would have a sports performance training and fitness center, a nutritional cafe, sports medicine offices and retail tenants selling specialty sporting goods and uniforms. If built, the facility may be used for conventions and exhibitions, officials said.

While Darien officials realize the forest preserve can't sell land to a developer, they said the district could donate, sell or lease property to the city.

"If the proposal is favorable to the forest preserve district, the city may have the opportunity to lease or sell the property to the end user," according to Weaver's letter.

But forest preserve officials say state law prohibits the district from leasing or selling land. Even though there are "extremely narrow circumstances" where the sale or lease of district property could happen, Zagorac's proposal "does not fall within any exception," district officials said.

"Everyone seems to want forest preserve property," said Pierotti, adding it's not rare for the district to get requests to sell land. "Since I've been president, we've taken a very stern position that we're not a land bank for any agency."

Pierotti said voters approved tax increases so the district can acquire property for open space. So if the district let any of the land be used for a private development, it would "seriously undermine public confidence," officials said.

He said residents "would be up in arms" if the district allowed the site near Darien to be developed. "And rightfully so," he added. "They gave us the money to buy open space."

Vana said he doesn't expect the project to proceed since the forest preserve land isn't available.

"If this particular group has other sites they're interested in," he said, "they didn't tell us."

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