Opponents of the Longmeadow Parkway project found new hope Thursday in a National Park Service ruling that invalidates a land swap Kane County officials need for the current path of the 5.6-mile roadway and possible toll bridge.
However, county officials said the decision wouldn't hinder ongoing construction on the project.
The National Park Service ruling came to light in documents filed in federal court this week related to an ongoing lawsuit opponents filed to stop the parkway. The history of the decision dates back to a deal involving Kane County and the Dundee Township Park District. The county used federal funds to buy a 10-acre portion of Hickory Hills Park it needed for the parkway path. In trade, the county gave the park district land the district coveted near the Brunner Forest Preserve.
The problem is the federal grant the county used for the land swap says "land already in public ownership is generally ineligible to serve as replacement property."
Longmeadow opponents triggered a review of the deal by the National Park Service. The park service ruled the agreement invalid and affirmed its decision in an appeal the county made in late April.
"The decision by the National Park Service validates what we have known all along, that Kane County didn't follow the law regarding Longmeadow Parkway," said Geoffrey Petzel, the original plaintiff in the lawsuit to stop the parkway.
The project won't be halted because of the ruling, according to Carl Schoedel, the county's transportation director. He said there are exceptions to the park service's rule about not trading public land for existing public land. He believes the county meets the requirements for an exception and is hopeful the park service will consider the decision via a new application the county will submit.
"The bottom line is we will do whatever is required of us by the National Park Service to fulfill our obligations and move this project forward," Schoedel said.
He explained the original deal with the park district occurred via a plan determined at the recommendation of the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.
According to the park services rules, if the county doesn't meet the requirements for an exception, another possible solution would involve the county buying a new parcel of roughly equal value to the Hickory Hills Park site to give to the park district.