The Kane County Forest Preserve District on Tuesday granted an easement to Commonwealth Edison to construct the new Grand Prairie Gateway Transmission line through the 757-acre Muirhead Springs Forest Preserve near Hampshire.
In a split vote, the Forest Preserve Commission agreed to grant of right of way easement on approximately 8.44 acres “in a manner that would reduce the negative impact on district lands,” according to the resolution.
Kane County Forest Preserve District Executive Director Monica Meyers emphasized that the Illinois Commerce Commission still needs to decide the location of the power lines. While the Forest Preserve District approved an option agreement for the easement at Tuesday’s meeting, that does not mean the line will go through the preserve.
“We will find out in April,” she said.
Some historic preservationists and property owners at Tuesday’s meeting expressed concern that the power lines would be too close to the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Muirhead Farmhouse, which is located in the Muirhead Springs Forest Preserve. Muirhead is the only known farmhouse designed and built by Wright during his lifetime.
Shauna Wiet, chairperson of Kane County’s Historic Preservation Commission, said the Muirhead Farmhouse has received statewide recognition and hosted visitors from all over the world. She said the 135- to 170-foot steel poles of the 345,000-volt transmission line will detract from the value of the property, which the family still occupies and which has undergone extensive restoration.
“This line will be literally adjacent to the property,” she said.
The Grand Prairie Gateway transmission line will connect ComEd’s existing substations near the communities of Byron and Wayne and extend through the counties of Ogle, DeKalb, Kane and DuPage. Construction is scheduled to begin in the second quarter of next year and the line is expected to be in service in 2017, according to the ComEd website.
The easement agreement would route the power lines along the existing railroad tracks that run through the forest preserve rather than around the forest preserve. The more-direct route means there would be about five power poles rather than 17.
Elizabeth Safanda, director of Preservation Partners, praised Kane County for creating the first historic district in the state of Illinois and said it should continue that legacy. She said the Muirhead Farmhouse “is a very significant building” and that she’s received a stack of letters from historic preservation agencies, including the Frank Lloyd Write Building Conservancy, that oppose the construction of the power lines near to the site.
John Hoscheit, who has served 19 years as a commissioner and 12 as president of the Forest Preserve District, said the Forest Preserve District was doing the best it could with the hand it had been dealt.
“We don’t want the power line at all — that would be the ideal solution,” he said. “Unfortunately, if we choose not to act, we’re going to have power lines that frame our districts. No matter how we decide, it’s going to have a negative impact on someone.”
County Board member Doug Scheflow made a motion to table the resolution, “so that each of us can get out to that property and see what it looks like,” and the motion was seconded by County Board member Barb Wojnicki, but the motion was defeated.
According to the resolution, Kane County will receive $319,000 from ComEd as part of the easement agreement.
Resolution Authorizing an Option Agreement for Grant of Right of Way Easement with Commonwealth Edison for Use of Land at the Muirhead Springs Forest Preserve
WHEREAS, the Forest Preserve District of Kane County and Commonwealth Edison desire to enter into an option agreement for use of land at the Muirhead Springs Forest Preserve; and
WHEREAS, Commonwealth Edison is requesting the District to consider an option agreement for grant of right of way easement on approximately 8.44 acres, for the purpose of constructing the new Grand Prairie Gateway Transmission Line through Kane County in a manner that would reduce the negative impact on District lands for which the District would receive $319,000; and
NOW, THEREFORE, BE IT RESOLVED, by the Board of Commissioners of the Forest Preserve District of Kane County, Illinois that the President and Secretary of the District be, and hereby are, authorized to execute and deliver on behalf of the District, agreement hereto and made a part of hereof as Exhibit A attached. Approved and Passed on this the 10th day of February, 2015