Kane County Forest Preserve President John Hoscheit was out late and up early following the county's successful referendum for open space.
A glitch in the county's website Tuesday night meant returns weren't showing as quickly as other races, so he drove to the clerk's office to get the information he was looking for.
It also was the information he was hoping for—a 2,232-vote margin of victory in a referendum question that garnered 32,040 votes.
Hoscheit credited the win to a grassroots campaign with a lot of town meetings and help from the Conservation Foundation. "There's 30-plus good people there who helped us get the word out," he said.
Open-space referendums generally carry high success rates and margins of victory when the economy is good. Hoscheit says that's because voters recognize that they're not paying for operations—which is a tax increase ad infinitum.
"Our referendums are different because 85 percent of the funds are used to purchase land and the other 15 percent is to improve the land," he said.
Even with that—and a good sales pitch for buying land while prices are at their lowest—Hoscheit said "obviously, we were pleasantly surprised at the outcome."
Now that voters have said "yes," what's next?
"In the eastern part of the county, properties along the river are a high priority," Hoscheit said. "But the bulk of acquisitions have been (and will continue to be) in the middle third of the county, and a lot of it will be expansions to our existing preserves."
An example outside Geneva might be property near 229-acre Meissner-Corron Forest Preserve on the border of Campton and Plato townships. Hoscheit said land adjacent to the Corron preserve was sold and annexed to the city of Elgin and gave rise to Campton Hills. That property is now in financial distress and available at a bargain-basement price.
"We know value is down significantly," he said. "Those (properties) would have have been (developed as) several hundred homes that would be added to an area's population and put a greater burden on the schools. If we can acquire property in critical growth areas, I think the end result for taxpayers is going to be a longterm reduction."
Hoscheit said the committees that put together the proposal pulled back on the amount they were seeking for land acquisition because they understood that not everyone can afford a tax increase.
"We were aware of that," he said. "Our prior referendums required $75 million and $80 million. We reduced the asking to $30 million. That made the cost per average household to be a little more than $1 a month."