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updated: 4/9/2014 6:48 PM

Pending deal would clear way for Settler's Hill redevelopment

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A new agreement that may clear the way for as many as 11 new recreational and commercial uses for the old Settler's Hill landfill campus received its first review Wednesday.

If approved by Kane County and local forest preserve officials, changes to the golf course and plans for a cross-country facility may proceed as soon as next month.

The agreement clears a logjam between the county and its landfill partner, Waste Management, that centered on future legal liabilities for the landfill and the pending improvements. The document also adds the Kane County Forest Preserve District as a party to the issues for the first time.

Board member Mike Donahue criticized Waste Management last month for trying to foist more of the legal liability for the landfill on the county. The negative press spawned renewed negotiations and the pending agreement.

"The message I was getting beforehand (from Waste Management) was if we can't resolve this liability issue we won't be able to move forward with recreational uses, and that's OK," Donahue said. "My take on it was this plan is going to happen. It's not going to be in anyone's interest to have the whole thing fall apart."

Both the county board and forest preserve commissioners approved a plan that envisions as many as 11 new recreational uses on the 700-acre Fabyan Parkway campus in Geneva that includes the landfill.

Those uses may bring everything from an outlook observatory to a music venue and/or convention center to the campus. Mountain biking trails and a complete revamp of the golf course are also possible, but each concept still awaits a full review for both financial and engineering feasibility.

The only proposed changes with a full green light and a budget to fund them are the addition of a driving range at the golf course and a redesign of the first hole.

But even that work couldn't begin until Waste Management signed off. The pending agreement will serve as Waste Management's permission letter for all the concepts signed off on by the county board so far.

Under the agreement, Waste Management retains liability for the landfill operations. Kane County and the forest preserve district assume liability for the existing and future recreational uses.

"We have the same protections that we've always had here," Donahue said. "And (Waste Management) is still responsible for everything they've already been responsible for. We have the same kind of public access liability that we have on any of our publicly-owned property. If there is anything that arises from an environmental aspect, that's going to continue to be solely Waste Management's responsibility."

If the county board and forest commission approve the agreement, only the investigation of the viability of the cross country course will proceed. Once complete, the county board will either agree to move forward with construction or dump the idea and move on to investigate one of the remaining visions.

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