Kane County May Fight Sprawl by Buying Development Rights

Article excerpt

Kane County Board members seem to like a radical new idea to slow development and preserve farmland in the county by purchasing agricultural land or the development rights to the same property.

But before the county moves ahead with the more unusual practice of buying development rights, the county wants to know if state law would allow such a novel practice.

During a development committee meeting Tuesday, board member Bill Morse, who chairs the committee, said he has asked the Kane County State's Attorney's office to provide an opinion on the law before moving ahead with the program.

Morse, along with board Chairman Mike McCoy, are jointly proposing that the county spend some of its accumulated cut of riverboat profits to buy farms before developers buy them first - an increasing concern of many board members worried that the county is quickly losing its rural character.

Owning development rights would allow the county to ensure that land stays agricultural and not be developed as homes or businesses.

McCoy, an Aurora Republican, has said that he envisions the county buying a farm a year for a decade or more as a state, while Morse, a Hampshire Republican, envisions the county buying or controlling the development rights of up to 10,000 acres of farmland.

Tuesday's committee meeting was the first public presentation of the idea, but Morse and McCoy have been talking to other board members privately about it for a couple weeks.

To kick off the public debate of the idea, Morse asked the regional director of the American Farmland Trust, Ed Minihan, to talk to the development committee Tuesday. …