Geneva seeks purpose for land on Prairie Green Preserve

 
 
Updated 9/10/2019 5:23 PM

A solar farm, a new parking lot and rehabbing an existing barn were among ideas the Geneva City Council discussed Monday for the future of land on the eastern edge of Prairie Green Preserve.

City Administrator Stephanie Dawkins led a brainstorming session to assess the city's vision for the property at 1N384 Peck Road. The city closed on the site in February after purchasing the 6.3-acre parcel -- which includes 4.8 acres of cropland, a house and dairy barn -- for $475,000.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Much of the discussion involved adding a solar farm.

The land could be used for "more solar energy," Alderman Robert Swanson said.

But some council members questioned if a solar facility would be consistent with the look of the preserve.

"I don't know what a solar farm looks like, but it's not in the spirit of open space," Alderman Craig Maladra said.

"Solar farms are ugly," Alderman Mike Clements said. "They need big panels, they've got to be big. I would be inclined to leave (the area) more open."

"I don't agree with all this negativity about solar farms," Swanson said. "It would be nice to have more sustainable energy. Let's keep that option open."

Clements pointed out that the technology involved in solar energy is evolving and the city doesn't want to be stuck with something it won't want in a few years.

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"It would be prudent to hold off," he said.

The house on the site, meanwhile, could not be traced to any significant events in Geneva's history and retains few of its original architectural features, Dawkins said.

Alderman Jeanne McGowan, however, said the house should be saved and "in the spirit of affordable housing," could continue to serve as a residence.

Dawkins said vacant buildings are a nuisance that can bring "unwanted guests of both the two-legged and four-legged variety."

Alderman Mike Bruno suggested selling the building for $1 if someone would be willing to move it off the site. Alderman Gabriel Kaven suggested offering it to the fire department for training if no one is interested in purchasing it.

Alderman Dean Kilburg said the council should "tread cautiously" before deciding the fate of the dairy barn.

"Barns are disappearing across Illinois," he said. "Some barns are architectural treasures."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

Kilburg said it would be worth a conversation with the park district to determine if it could be repurposed for a different use, such as a meeting place or banquet facility.

Several council members backed the idea of adding a parking lot and extending the pedestrian and biking trails in the preserve.

McGowan said an extension of the bike trail north of the property would provide the "missing link" to connect other trails. But she said trees should be added to provide a buffer for residents across Peck Road.

Swanson introduced the idea of expanding the community gardens program. Community gardens in the Prairie Green Preserve, which are actually owned by the Kane County Forest Preserve and operated by the Geneva Park District, continually sell out.

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