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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lake Zurich, Ill., CN working on land trade

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The Lake Zurich, Ill., Village Board gave its preliminary consensus for a property swap with Canadian National Railway at the board's meeting last week, which would result in CN building a 250-foot-tall communication tower in the village's industrial park rather than near downtown, according to local newspapers.

The village would swap an 18,000-square-foot property on state Route 22 near Old Rand Road behind Casper True Value Hardware, for village-owned property on Ensell Road between Oakwood Road and Telser Road.

Trustees are expected to approve the land swap at the Nov. 16 board meeting, according to Village Administrator Bob Vitas. Vitas said the deal was prompted by reports he received two months ago from Casper's management.

Trustee Jim Johnson said the management reported CN was moving in heavy equipment to build the tower. Vitas said the village had no knowledge of the proposed tower prior to that.

"Of course we were surprised about (it)," Vitas said. "It was not something we were aware of until the railroad contractors showed up."

Vitas said CN negotiators, working with the village on the proposed voluntary mitigation agreement for increased traffic on the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railroad, seemed surprised, too.

"I could say the gentleman I was negotiating with was caught off guard as well," Vitas said. "Not everybody who was at CN we were dealing with was knowledgeable about that."

CN spokesperson Patrick Waldron said the tower, which would be used to communicate with train crews, was separate from the mitigation agreement.

Vitas said railroads don't have to work with the village's building and zoning department, as they come under the auspices of the Federal Railroad Administration.

"They could have chosen to totally ignore our requests and it could be standing there today," Vitas said.

Vitas said railroads and local governments don't have a lot of interaction, unless proposed changes impacts roads. He was concerned the tower's earlier location would have hurt property values. Vitas said CN negotiator Eric Jakubowski was helpful in getting the proposed agreement.

"The gentleman agreed it would be foolhardy to stick a 250-foot tower in our downtown, based on what were trying to accomplish," Vitas said at the meeting. "He was instrumental in getting that moved."

Trustee Jim Johnson agreed CN has been accommodating with the move.

"They have indicated, or tried to demonstrate a willingness to talk, to compromise and to work with the village," Johnson said at the meeting. "I think the land swap benefits both of us."

Vitas said the village would get a prime piece of property on state Route 22, which was "essentially immediately buildable," from the swap.

A consensus of the board also approved an "at-your-own-risk" building permit, where CN could lose any construction on Ensell Road if the board votes down the trade Nov. 16.

Waldron said he didn't have a timeline for when construction might start on the new tower location.

The board would also be considering a memorandum of agreement for mitigation of the CN's acquisition of the Elgin, Joliet and Eastern Railroad Nov. 16. Vitas said the village was expecting to get about $2 million for mitigation.

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