Landowner challenges eminent domain decision for Hononegah school: Rockford IL Register-Star, 11/2/06

By Sarah Roberts

A former [Roscoe IL] village engineer who recently was instructed to sell 23 acres of his land to the Hononegah School District is challenging the district’s appraiser.

Chris Hodges and his wife, Kimberly, own property near the intersection of McCurry and Willowbrook roads, where Hononegah wants to build a second high school. After a series of failed negotiations, the School District filed an eminent domain lawsuit against Hodges in August 2005.

The district’s appraiser pegged the land’s value at $6,000 an acre. Hodges’ appraiser, American Appraisal Associates of Milwaukee, said the land is worth $32,500 an acre.

Last month, a jury decided the district should pay Hodges $9,100 an acre.

Hodges, who was Roscoe’s village engineer when he bought the property in January 2004, testified that he paid $4,800 an acre for the land at that time. He said he never has publicly disclosed how much he wanted the School District to pay.

Hodges and his attorney, Art Kielty, believe a planned $43 million Beloit Memorial Hospital project significantly increases the value of Hodges’ land and that school leaders knew about the project but did not convey that information to their appraiser.

Hodges’ appeal is scheduled for court review Nov. 9.

“We’re still exploring every option,” Hodges said.

School Board President Dave Kurlinkus declined to comment on Hodges’ decision because he wasn’t aware of the appeal.

Throughout the lawsuit, Hononegah’s strategic planning group has continued to work on a long-term growth plan through 2012. The plan should be ready for board review later this month.

Acquiring the Hodges property is just a preliminary step in the multiyear process of building a new school. Hononegah’s current campus is landlocked and cannot be expanded. The district owns 42 acres south of the Hilander on Hononegah Road, but school leaders say recent studies show a second campus would better accommodate student growth if it was east of Illinois 251.

If the School District can acquire the property it needs near McCurry and Willowbrook roads, Kurlinkus said, the School Board would sell its 42-acre parcel and pursue other funding to pay for the new site.

Rockford IL Register-Star: http://www.rrstar.com