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News Coverage of Kane Open Space Referendum


Kane County Chronicle
April 4, 2017

Kane County Forest Preserve District referendum tallies election win.


By RENEE TOMELL

Kane County voters have approved the $50 million land acquisition and improvement referendum put forward by the Kane County Forest Preserve District Commission. Unofficial totals on the night of April 4 came in at 24,517 in favor and 20,982 against.

"I'm very pleased with the outcome and grateful to having the voters be the ones that can actually decide on these things to have the validation of their votes is really important to us at the forest preserve," said Mark Davoust, treasurer for the commission.

He said that with the election over, the district looks forward to completing planned projects.

"We couldn't do it without the staff at the forest preserve district," he said. "They do a great job."

The positive outcome of the vote is a relief, said Monica Meyers, the district's executive director. She praised the efforts of the volunteer committee of The Conservation Foundation for promoting passage of the referendum.

"The Conservation Foundation did such a phenomenal job," she said. "We couldn't be more thrilled."

She said one of the things that came out in the poll conducted by the foundation was the public's support of natural areas improvements. And one of the coming priorities will be at Dick Young Forest Preserve, making sure that Nelson Lake Marsh gets rehydrated for a wildlife habitat, Meyers said.

She said that right up until election, her office fielded many questions from the public on what the district has accomplished through past referendums and future plans for acquisition of open space.

Eighty percent of the money from the referendum is intended for the acquisition of about 2,000 acres of land, and about 20 percent for capital improvement. The funds cannot be used for salaries, pensions or operations, according to Davoust.

Ahead of the election, Davoust explained the tax implications. Because previously issued bonds have been retired or refinanced, taxpayers who own a $250,000 home are scheduled to see a reduction of $104 in their tax bill. By passing the referendum, those homeowners will see $22 less in savings annually for the 20-year life of the bonds.

Future land acquisitions will focus on expanding and connecting existing holdings, a strategy designed to be operationally efficient, according to Davoust.

There have been four previous referendums since 1999, when the district owned about 7,000 acres. Holdings number almost 21,000 acres today.

In voting on whether to place the referendum on the ballot, three commissioners of 22 dissented. And Kane County Board Chairman Chris Lauzen expressed opposition to the referendum in a letter to the editor sent to the Kane County Chronicle, citing concerns over adequate operational funds for the forest preserve property.