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Forest preserve could strike land swap agreement
Deal would allow for tollway expansion

Tuesday, July 11, 2006
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

Cook County Forest Preserve commissioners are reacting coolly to an Illinois Toll Highway Authority request to buy rights to land along I-294, but Commissioner Gregg Goslin thinks they can work a deal.
“(What) I want, there’s 400 to 500 acres of land next to Lake Calumet,” said Goslin, a Republican from Glenview who serves the Barrington area.
The tollway authority has offered about $3 million for easements on a total of 16 acres next to the tollway from roughly Touhy Avenue to Lake-Cook Road. The land would be used to widen the tollway one lane in each direction. Another $1.7 million would be paid to the county to plant replacement trees elsewhere.
Goslin acknowledges the tollway authority doesn’t own the Lake Calumet land, but the state does. He wants to work a swap there.
Illinois State Toll Highway Authority spokeswoman Joelle McGinnis noted that land swapping is not in the county forest preserve land purchase policy. She also said the land being sought is in swaths about 75 feet wide that are largely unused by patrons of the forest preserves.
“We will not be building any new pavement on the forest preserve property,” she said.
Instead, the tollway would build embankments for the widened expressway. The tollway would also improve drainage and plantings, she said.
Still, many commissioners remain unconvinced. Goslin’s not alone in scoffing at the $3 million offer.
Carl Hansen, the outgoing Republican commissioner from Mount Prospect notes that when the forest preserve sold land to Rosemont several years ago, the village paid $800,000 an acre. At those rates, the tollway should be offering at least $13 million, he noted.
Another Cook County Forest Preserve Commissioner Forrest Claypool, a Chicago Democrat, isn’t happy either. He said no one has approached him to talk about it. In general, he opposes giving away forest preserve land.
Liz Gorman, a Republican commissioner whose district serves parts of Des Plaines and Arlington Heights, hasn’t taken a position yet, but sounded favorable Monday.
She noted the land is next to or under the tollway and isn’t really high-use land.
“For $3 million, you can get better land than what’s sitting under the tollway,” she said.
Commissioner Mike Quigley of Chicago opposes giving away any forest preserve land on principle because there’s little land left for the forest preserve to acquire.
“The citizens of this county did not purchase land for the last 90 years to set it aside as a land bank for the tollway,” he said.
Commissioners will be presented with the proposal today, but will send it to committee for further consideration before taking action.


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