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posted: 2/22/2014 8:00 AM

Settler's Hill at center of Kane County Dist. 11 contest

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  • John Martin, left, and Thomas Matson are candidates in the race for Kane County Board District 11.

      John Martin, left, and Thomas Matson are candidates in the race for Kane County Board District 11.

 
 

The Kane County Board District 11 seat is the focal point for one of the largest redevelopment proje7cts the county and the forest preserve district will undertake in the next four years.

Board member Mike Donahue has led the transformation of the Settler's Hill landfill and surrounding Fabyan Parkway campus into more intense public use. Donahue is retiring from the board at the end of this year. One of the two Republicans vying to replace him will be the next voice in the direction of a project that will also play a role in the economic futures of Geneva and Batavia.

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John Martin, a commercial real estate attorney, is Donahue's hand-picked successor. He said various market studies are needed to gauge the potential success of each of the proposed projects. But if the studies are positive, Martin said he would back a hotel/convention center at the old sheriff's property, a cross-country track, a band shell and a bike path through Fabyan Woods.

Martin said the hotel, or whatever commercial redevelopment of the old sheriff's property occurs, must be borne from the private sector.

"If, in fact, the private market could come in and make a decent decision, without tax dollars supporting it, that they could build (the hotel), I would be all in favor of it," Martin said. "I would assume they would do the market studies."

Martin said the bike path through Fabyan Woods is a good idea to provide better public access to the area, but it must be created with special consideration given to the existing oak trees.

A band shell isn't necessarily a bad idea, Martin said, but it would take quite a bit of evidence before Martin would feel confident it could succeed.

"They are very hard to place and very hard, economically, to support," Martin said. "The sophisticated ones that make it have an orchestra."

Thomas Matson, a small-business owner, has a more general approach to redevelopment of the Fabyan campus. He says he would need proof that the individual project makes sense and lowers taxes.

Matson said he sees the potential for recreational convergence with the Fox Valley Ice Arena, Kane County Cougars games and bringing more people to the property. But he worries about the tax impact of any cost overruns involved with construction or long-term operation of the projects.

"Do we need another attorney on the board?" Matson said in an email interview. "Or, do we need an experienced businessman representing District 11 who understands how to reduce waste, increase operational efficiencies, and increase revenue without increasing taxes?"

The primary election is March 18.

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