SUN-TIMES EDITORIAL: Illinois Needs Better Rules for Selling Off Unneeded Land

“Illinois has an inadequate process for selling off land it no longer needs. It ought to do better.

“The glaring shortcoming was demonstrated when the state unloaded the so-called Damen Silos at 29th Street and Damen Avenue for $6.52 million to MAT Limited Partnership, which is owned by asphalt manufacturer Michael Tadin Jr. MAT has not endeared itself to many of the residents living near its asphalt plant in McKinley Park.

“Clearly, the 23-acre Damen property, which is right on the river, should have been part of a master plan focused on helping to redevelop the land along the Chicago River in a way most beneficial to city residents.

“Various groups around the city have said they want park space, a bike path or both on the site, opponents of the sale say. And transforming the river from an old-time industrial waterway to an environmental asset for the public has long been a goal for advocates of the river.

“But none of that was taken into account.

“The Illinois Department of Central Management Services said the state simply followed rules that said the land should be sold to the highest bidder. But Kate Eakin, president of the McKinley Park Development Council, told us the law requires only a sale at fair market value, and it does not apply if the state is selling the land to another government, such as the city of Chicago.

“But there are instances, such as in this case, in which the public benefit from a thoughtful reuse of the property would have been greater than simply getting some extra money tacked onto the sale price and having the property put back on the tax rolls.

That’s why better rules are needed.

“Illinois residents deserve to know what will be the ultimate use of land the state is selling, said Gerald W. Adelmann, president & CEO of Openlands.

“As it stands now, the state does not require any plan for a site before selling it, other than making sure no state agencies want it. The Damen site, with its historic grain silos, is one of the last remaining large plots along the Chicago River that could be used for the public.

“Done right, the site could be turned into a city jewel providing open space and recreation. But conservationists say no one, including the state, can produce the document in which the state notified the city of the pending sale.” (Chicago Sun-Times Editorial Board, 1/3/23)

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