Earlier this year, the Butterfield Park District worked with a local conservation group to stop a gas station from being built at Butterfield Road and Route 53.
Now district leaders say they need the support of voters to prevent any future development of the roughly 2.4-acre site near Glen Ellyn.
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The park board has agreed to put a question on the Nov. 4 ballot that will ask whether the park district can borrow nearly $3 million to buy and improve the parcel next to the district's headquarters.
If the park district acquires the site, it plans is to use the property for open space, trails, gardens, a nature-based playground, a park shelter and passive recreation areas.
"My neighbors have asked me for years if there was any way we could acquire this property for public use and now we have the opportunity to preserve it for future generations," Michael Kryger, president of the park board, said in a statement.
The park district has the chance to buy the land because it's participating in the Conservation Foundation's "buy and hold" program. As part of the program, the Naperville-based organization purchases a parcel for an agency and then holds it for one to two years until the agency can buy it.
The Conservation Foundation bought the site at the northeast corner of Butterfield and Route 53 earlier this year because Nebraska-based Buck's Inc. wanted to build a Mobil station with a car wash and a Bucky's convenience store on the property.
While the former owners of the site originally wanted $1.9 million for the land, they agreed to sell it to the foundation for $1.5 million.
Before the Conservation Foundation got involved, park district officials and residents spent nearly a year opposing Buck's plan by raising concerns about air pollution, traffic and the size of the development.
Larry Reiner, executive director of the park district, said the best way to guarantee the property never will be sold for commercial development is for the park district to buy it.
"The Conservation Foundation would not want to do that (sell the land for commercial development)," Reiner said. "But they also don't want to be stuck with the property, either. They are doing this for our community."
If the ballot question is approved, the owner of a $200,000 home would pay about $55 a year more to the park district.
"Our board is committed to preserve and improve the quality of life in the district, but we need to know that this is what our community wants," Kryger said.
The park district's total request is for $2.985 million. Of that amount, $1.5 million would be used to buy the land. The rest of the money would be used to clean up, improve and maintain the site.
The property is the site of a Shell station that was torn down about 15 years ago. Part of the cleanup work would include removing remaining asphalt.
Reiner said there aren't any major environmental issues with the property.
"There are some things that need to be cleaned up environmentally," Reiner said. "But they will get cleaned up while we're making it a nice park for the community."
To educate the community about its plans for the site, the park district will hold several public information meetings. The first meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Aug. 21 at the district's administrative office, 21W730 Butterfield Road.