by Keith Beebe
KANE COUNTY—Kane County residents voting on the April 5 ballot will have the option to approve the Forest Preserve District Land Acquisition and Preserve Improvement Referendum, which would give the district $30 million to acquire land and perform capital initiatives.
The Forest Preserve District’s website states that the $30 million in general obligation bonds will go toward acquisition and preservation of forests and natural lands, protection of wildlife habitats, enhanced flood control, improved hiking, bike trails and fishing, and improved forest preserves, wetlands and prairies.
Land acquisition entails the addition of land to existing preserves and acquirement of land for new forest preserves, while capital projects include tasks such as resurfacing trails and renovating facilities.
Kane County forest preserves currently cover a total of 18,752 acres.
The Forest Preserve District previously issued referendums in 1999, 2005 and 2007 (those referendums were for $70 million, $75 million and $85 million, respectively), so why is there a need for a referendum in 2011? The district’s answer is simple: it believes land prices are at their lowest in years.
“We’re estimating being able to buy the same amount of land with $30 million that we were able to buy with that $85 million (a few years ago),” said Monica Meyers, executive director of the Kane County Forest Preserve District. “If the referendum passes, we’ll be going in as the only land buyer for a while, and that creates some opportunity—prices are low, there’s no competition to make prices go up, and we know there’s a lot of land on the market.”
The referendum’s impact on taxpayers would be $13.20 for a household in a $268,000 home (the average cost of a house in Kane County) each year over a 20-year period, which amounts to $1.10 every month.
According to Meyers, the issue of timing and the economy were both prime factors when the district was discussing whether or not to go through with the Land Acquisition and Preserve Improvement Referendum. And though land prices have never been better, the district is still committed to maintaining a rapport with Kane County taxpayers.
“The district’s always had a philosophy of, ‘If we’re going to do these programs, we’re going to send them out for the public to vote on them,’” Meyers said. “We’ve got a master plan in place, and we’re moving forward with that program as long as the taxpayers tell us they want us to move forward with it. We’re going to ask for their permission.”