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County Board OKs Settlers Hill master plan

GENEVA – The Kane County Board has signed off on a plan to transform the Settlers Hill landfill into a regional outdoor recreation area.

Tuesday, the County Board approved by a vote of 16-7 the master plan proposed for the redevelopment of the Fabyan Property, a 700-acre swatch of land on the far east side of Geneva that includes two closed landfills, the old Kane County Jail site and land managed by the Kane County Forest Preserve District.

The measure also was approved earlier Tuesday by the Kane County Forest Preserve District.

“We need to start somewhere,” said County Board member Jesse Vazquez, D-Aurora. “And this is a very well-thought-out plan.”

The plan has been the subject of debate and discussion for more than a year. Supporters of the project believe the plan will guide the redevelopment of the landfills from eyesores to amenities for the Tri-Cities.

The plan calls for trails for cross country running and mountain biking; a hilltop observatory; a winter recreation area with ice skating ponds; a golf course; and an outdoor music venue along Kirk Road.

Since 2011, the plan has been revised to reflect wishes of county and forest preserve district officials while responding to concerns from the public.

Many of those concerns centered on proposals for recreational activities within the woods at the Fabyan Forest Preserve. The approved master plan removed all recreational activities from those woods besides a bike trail from the Fox River to Settlers Hill.

Critics also were mollified by a promise to establish a volunteer working group to develop a woodland restoration and management plan for Fabyan Woods.

Officials have said that group, which was intended to include members of the public, would meet over the winter to create a scope of work for management of the woods.

Before the vote Tuesday, three county residents addressed the board, saying they did not believe the Fabyan Woods working group was being created fast enough or with enough public participation. They urged the County Board to postpone the vote until the woodlands management plan could be created.

Some on the board continued to oppose the plan.

Board member Jim Mitchell, R-North Aurora, asked the board to remove the old jail site from the plan. He believed including the site would make it difficult for the county to sell the land and use the proceeds to pay debt incurred when the county built the new jail in St. Charles Township several years ago.

A majority of the board rejected Mitchell’s reasoning, noting a master plan would not preclude the county from doing anything with any piece of the Fabyan Property.

Others on the board said they believed the county had not sufficiently addressed pollution concerns, and they believed the county was “rushing the project.”

County Board member Mike Donahue, R-Geneva, who led development of the Fabyan Property master plan, said the effort likely will take a “90-day hiatus” until after the November elections.

Donahue said he believes work can be resumed early next year on the project, including the design of such particular elements as cross country running trails.

“The adoption of the master plan is really only the first step in a long process,” Donahue said.

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