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What's Next for Open Space? Look for Land Purchases Near River, Existing Preserves, Center Third of Kane

Forest Preserve District President John Hoscheit says low cost to taxpayer, high return of property acquisition was reason for referendum's success.

Kane County Forest Preserve President John Hoscheit was out late and up early following the county's successful referendum for open space.

A glitch in the county's website Tuesday night meant returns weren't showing as quickly as other races, so he drove to the clerk's office to get the information he was looking for.

It also was the information he was hoping for—a 2,232-vote margin of victory in a referendum question that garnered 32,040 votes.

Hoscheit credited the win to a grassroots campaign with a lot of town meetings and help from the Conservation Foundation. "There's 30-plus good people there who helped us get the word out," he said.

Open-space referendums generally carry high success rates and margins of victory when the economy is good. Hoscheit says that's because voters recognize that they're not paying for operations—which is a tax increase ad infinitum.

"Our referendums are different because 85 percent of the funds are used to purchase land and the other 15 percent is to improve the land," he said.

Even with that—and a good sales pitch for buying land while prices are at their lowest—Hoscheit said "obviously, we were pleasantly surprised at the outcome."

Now that voters have said "yes," what's next?

"In the eastern part of the county, properties along the river are a high priority," Hoscheit said. "But the bulk of acquisitions have been (and will continue to be) in the middle third of the county, and a lot of it will be expansions to our existing preserves."

An example outside Geneva might be property near 229-acre Meissner-Corron Forest Preserve on the border of Campton and Plato townships. Hoscheit said land adjacent to the Corron preserve was sold and annexed to the city of Elgin and gave rise to Campton Hills. That property is now in financial distress and available at a bargain-basement price.

"We know value is down significantly," he said. "Those (properties) would have have been (developed as) several hundred homes that would be added to an area's population and put a greater burden on the schools. If we can acquire property in critical growth areas, I think the end result for taxpayers is going to be a longterm reduction."

Hoscheit said the committees that put together the proposal pulled back on the amount they were seeking for land acquisition because they understood that not everyone can afford a tax increase.

"We were aware of that," he said. "Our prior referendums required $75 million and $80 million. We reduced the asking to $30 million. That made the cost per average household to be a little more than $1 a month."

Nolan Day April 07, 2011 at 10:59 PM
Dump Dewitte! Please ask the City of St Charles share the cost to increase the attraction of downtown St Charles by purchasing the old Blue Goose supermarket and Manor restaurant for a festival park/pavilion area on the river with kayak shutes. This will help bring more or our 30,000 residents downtown to shop and eat. This effort could help be supported with the $6 million dollars plus the Mayor has stashed away for the Red Gate Bridge that is not needed now with the completion of Stearns Rd Bridge to the north and the addition of left hand turn lanes this summer on east main street out by the car dealerships. Terrible use of the land if 30 condos are built there. 30 families benefit instead of 30,000 people and the merchants. The mayor doesn't seem to understand that less traffic is not good for business. Veronica Day
Ed Butters April 18, 2011 at 03:34 PM
First, I'm not sure why your comment starts out with "Dump DeWitte"...Second, I believe the City of St. Charles purchased this property several years ago, prior to Mr. DeWitte being elected. Regardless of the current ownership status, I do know that the property called for the Manor being rebuilt along with other commercial development. Those prospective tenants are no longer part of the development picture as I understand it, and this condo development, like the one that eventually replaced the old Piano Factory shopping mall (Howell Furniture factory before that, Cable Piano factory before that), has been put together by the developers to do what they do with all their properties--make a return on their investment. What would the price of this Festival/Pavilion area with Kayak chutes be to the taxpayers? What about maintenance? Would this fall under the purview of the Park District, and wouldn't that require the Park board's involvement from square one? The idea you propose is an interesting one, to be sure, but, at this juncture, given the cost to the developers (and/or the City if they've been holding the property), it seems that your idea has come far too late to fit into anyone's plans at this point, and, is an unjustifiable reason for calling for Mr. DeWitte's removal. That's what elections are for, and it appears that the majority of voters in St. Charles approve of Mr. DeWitte's management of the City to this point.
Ed Butters April 18, 2011 at 03:35 PM
The downtown area has improved immensely since he took office, and the resurrection of the shopping atmosphere is a work in progress, but, obvious to the most casual visitor to the area. Every downtown in every city of this size has taken hits from the big box stores over the last 20-30 years, but, with the downturn in the economy and many of these big boys going broke, the entrepreneurial opportunities are once again presenting themselves to downtown areas such as St. Charles as never before, and St. Charles is ready for this renaissance. I would give not only a healthy and hearty share of the credit to Mr. DeWitte, but also to the stalwarts of the City Council, such as Mr. Jim Martin, among others, who have stayed the course of many, many, many years to see a revitalization of the City as a whole, from Pheasant Run on the east side to Zylstra Harley Davidson on the west side and beyond. I think your idea is great in and of itself, and in fact, something I think the City should explore, but, your reasoning lacks good sense, the location is not good (I would prefer something down across from 55 acres south of Prarie on Rt. 25) and your swipe at DeWitte misplaced frustration at government spending in general. The Red Gate Bridge is something the City still needs, and has needed for many years. Stearns Road Bridge is fantastic--but it doesn't bring the extent of the relief needed that an additional bridge will provide.
Ed Butters April 18, 2011 at 03:36 PM
It took years to get Prairie Street Bridge built--and another 20 to get Stearns built. Red Gate can't get built fast enough, in my opinion, having driven the area with my business for 20+ years, and that opinion is shared by many who have been in business and lived here for much longer than that. Why don't you run for the Park Board? And as for the 30,000 "extra" people the kayak chutes would bring--where do you get those numbers? Pottawatomie Park brings in thousands, the Scarecrow Festival, the Fine Arts Festival, Mecum Auctions, the Norris Theater, revival of the Arcada, great strip centers on the east and on the west ends, clean parks city-wide, the area's best soccer fields....I'm not sure that St. Charles is lacking in tourism and downtown activity as your comments suggest. Those 30 families will be paying taxes, and the services and merchants needed to service those families will benefit every single day of the year versus seasonal kayak users. Find a better location, petition the Board, put together a committee, and get your idea online to raise money. Don't saddle the taxpayers by taking away property taxes sorely needed in these economic times, and don't start spreading bad vibes about a really great mayor. Be careful what you wish for.
Ed Butters April 19, 2011 at 12:51 PM
One more thought: If 30 condos are built, with an average of 3 persons per condo, x 365 days of shopping in a year, creates a potential of 32,850 "new" shoppers, as it were, per year from 30 condos. And these people aren't just going to be renting kayaks and buying 12 oz bottles of water. If I'm mayor or I'm a business in downtown St. Charles, I want those condos built.

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