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Government

Residents weigh in on $4.5M Downers Grove Park District land buy

DOWNERS GROVE – The Downers Grove Park District held a public hearing May 21 about potentially issuing $4.5 million in bonds to purchase 14.8 acres of land.

The district has agreed to pay $304,054 per acre for the property, located at the intersection of Ogden and Walnut avenues, directly north of the Walnut Avenue sports field.

It will close on the property this summer, and plans to pay for the land by issuing the bonds.

The land will remain undeveloped for now, but the district plans to convert it into sports fields.

The district published its notice of intent May 13 to issue $4.5 million in limited tax park bonds. Its Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the decision to buy the property April 16.

During its meeting May 21, board Vice President Bob Gelwicks said if the bonds are issued, the district would not raise taxes to repay them.

"In terms of a debt to the taxpayers of the community … in order to pay off this debt, we will use operating funds to do that," he said.

Downers Grove resident Gordon Goodman said he is in favor of acquiring the land. He said using the operating funds to pay off the debt is an "excellent way in which to finance this acquisition."

"We know that when money and land become available at the same time, it's a very good thing for the community," Goodman said.

Downers Grove resident Frank Falesch said he didn't think the purchase was necessary.

"It looks like you've got plenty of land," he said. "I just can't see why you need more land."

Bill Wrobel, of Downers Grove, asked if the district asked the Alter Group, which owns the property, if it would donate the land to the district.

Commissioner Damienne Souter said they asked for both full or partial donation, but the Alter Group did not want to donate.

Downers Grove resident Laurel Bowen asked for up-to-date documents related to discussion of the property, and said the appraisal used to set the price for the district deal dated back to 1997 and showed the land to have wetlands on it.

"How do we know this negotiation was done with all the facts that are current?" Bowen asked the board.

She also wanted to know if the board has done an audit of its existing sports fields.

Board Pesident Matt Cushing said prior to the meeting that the bond is not one that residents could petition for referendum.

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