Referendum to conserve forest

By Dave Gomez

A group of citizens proposed a $10 million bond referendum for open space preservation at the DeKalb County Forest Preserve meeting Tuesday.

If successful, the referendum would fund efforts to conserve public lands such as forest preserves, said DCFP superintendent Terry Hannan.

The long-term plan would focus on preserving public land so future generations would be able to enjoy local nature and recreational areas, Hannan said. He said the timing of the preservation is an issue because suitable land could be bought up or become more expensive.

Preserving public land would also include additional benefits such as providing clean air and water, and creating recreational and educational opportunities in communities, Hannan said.

The citizen’s group, headed by former county board member Michael Haines, made a presentation to the Forest Preserve Committee. After the presentation, the committee decided to form a new committee to explore the referendum, chairman Jeff Metzger said.

“I felt [that] instead of making any hasty decision for or against a bond being put on the ballot, [it] would be best to form an ad hoc committee,” Metzger said.

“None of us disagree that we want open space, however, we do want to look at the taxpayer, and whether or not this is the best time for a property tax increase.”

The increase would expire after 20 years, Metzger said.

A similar committee was created last year to review a tax referendum to expand the DeKalb County Jail. The referendum was voted down in March.

Metzger said he hoped to assemble a balanced committee consisting of Republicans, Democrats, financial experts and other citizens interested in both sides of the issue.

“I’m curious to see where the agricultural community will be on this,” Metzger said. “An increased property tax on them would be a concern.”

A list of names for the committee will be submitted to the DeKalb County Board for approval in September.

The referendum proposal is the first of its kind in DeKalb County, Hannan said. Both Kane and Will Counties passed a similar referendum for $70 million in 1999. Citizen’s group hopes to find funds for convervation