Kane County Forest Preserve District leaders are asking voters April 4 to approve $50 million in loans to buy about 2,000 to 2,500 acres at locations to be determined later.
That's a lot of money to buy unspecified property. But Kane County voters have an almost two-decades-long track record of supporting the forest preserve district's quest to expand its open space holdings. Four separate votes -- seeking loans ranging from $30 million to $85 million -- have been approved by residents since 1999 by approval margins of 54 to 66 percent.
In that time, the amount of open space under forest preserve control has increased from about 7,800 acres to almost 21,000 acres. Along the way, numerous forest preserves were expanded and upon passage of the 2011 bond issue, seven new preserves were added, bringing the total to 98.
The impact on taxpayers boils down to this: Because of other debt being retired, taxes will go down even if voters approved the plan -- by $82 for the typical owner of a home valued at $250,000. If the vote were to fail, the same resident would see a reduction of about $104.
In general terms, forest preserve officials say they will be looking for potential land buys along a swath that runs the length of the county, north to south -- an area that is less-developed than the eastern part of the county straddling the Fox River. The reason for the lack of specificity on potential land buys is that announcing intended sites is likely to drive up the price, forest preserve leaders say.
No question people have had their fill of property taxes, and some may vote against this plan on general principle. But we think voters should take a step back and recognize the value of keeping land undeveloped. We recommend a yes vote.