More opposition to Longmeadow Parkway, but county can take land
More opposition than in any other recent vote arose Tuesday against the Longmeadow Parkway, but not nearly enough to prevent Kane County officials from seizing all the land necessary to start construction this spring.
The county board voted 19-5 in favor of giving county transportation officials the power to seek "quick take" authority to obtain land the project needs to proceed. Quick-take is similar to condemnation, except the county receives immediate ownership to the property. The property owner also receives a determination of fair value and the actual compensation much faster than in a condemnation proceeding.
The $135 million project, years in the planning, calls for extending the road from west of Randall Road to Karen Drive and from east of Route 25 to, and along, Route 62. A potential toll bridge would span the Fox River.
County board member Jarett Sanchez said using a judge to snatch someone's property away is "un-American."
"We don't like to see the government coming to take the people's land," he said.
Sanchez was the only board member to oppose the project to this point. But four fellow Democrats -- Myrna Molina, Monica Silva, Angie Thomas and Penny Wegman -- joined him in voting against the quick-take powers Tuesday.
Sanchez called their votes "surprising."
"As I've said, I don't think I'm going to persuade the board to change its mind on Longmeadow," Sanchez said. "I do think if there were members opposing the project on the board in the past there would be a lot more votes now in this direction. It's always been everyone saying, 'It's great, let's vote yes.' Now we have one person saying no. But being so late in the project, it's really a hard case to make without something that's a gut punch. We don't have anything like that."
The pursuit of that gut punch may be fueling incorrect statements on social media that several county board members felt the need to correct.
"The problem with a lot of what the opposition is saying is that they say it without actually understanding," said board member Becky Gillam. "We are not taking people's houses. We are not ruining people's financial futures. There are no endangered species in the corridor."
Transportation committee Chairman Drew Frasz characterized the land the county must use quick-take powers for as "crumbs, the last vestiges that we have to acquire for the project." He said the legal proceeding, if necessary, only prevents an unfruitful land negotiation from holding up the whole project.
"We have multimillion dollars of federal funding on the line," Frasz said. "Nobody will be paid anything less than their land is worth. This is not an uncommon thing. It's very fair."