When Will McHenry County Learn?

Satruday’s Chicago Tribune story about how Kane County snagged $1,360,000 to purchase farm development rights reminds me of a story I have not written.

I vocalized it to a member of the McHenry County Conservation District staff shorting before MCCD’s successful referendum. Now it’s time to put it into into writing.

When is the McHenry County Conservation District going to figure out that it does not have to buy every acre of land it wishes to preserve as open space?

Kane County figured out five years ago that people wanted to be able to see open space and that it didn’t matter if corn or soybeans were growing on it.

The county board, in its role as governing body for the Kane County Forest Preserve District, started buying development rights.

The county didn’t end up owning the land, but it preserved the view.

And, it kept the cornfields from turning into fields of homes, which would grow school kids.

Kane County has paid farmers $25 million since 2001, to buy development rights on nearly 4,500 acres, the Tribune article by William Presecky reports.

$9 million of the money has come from federal matching funds; $16 million from casino money.

The program has the support of the Kane County Farm Bureau.

As its president, Bob Gehrke observed, “Development does not have to be inevitable.”

So, why won’t the McHenry County Conservation District Board take the development rights purchase approach?

I thought of one motive that might fit the “pave over as much of McHenry County as possible”approach that local political leaders seem to have:

If you purchase the land, instead of its development rights, it costs more money to save the same amount of property from development.

That allows more land to be developed.

Or, is that type of a long-term conspiracy hypothesis unworthy of consideration?

The MCCD Board is appointed by the McHenry County Board.

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