Activists lobby Geneva officials to save old oaks from development

Rachael Albers: ’They paved paradise and put up a warehouse development’

Geneva Township resident Brian Maher stands next to a burr oak he says is at least 300 years old. That tree and others are part of a 211-acre parcel proposed to be annexed and rezoned in Geneva.

GENEVA – Activists made trees the center stage at the Geneva City Council meeting Sept. 5 after several oaks were cut down in the area of a proposed warehouse development earlier that day.

Midwest Industrial Funds of Oak Brook seeks to annex and rezone 211 acres at the intersection of Route 38 and Kautz Road south to Fabyan Parkway. The proposal has eight buildings, one of them a warehouse that would require the trees to be cut down.

Midwest Industrial Funds, which already owns the land, has not yet filed a formal application for annexation, just its initial development proposal.

Activists said some of the trees are 300 years old and part of a remnant oak forest.

Geneva resident Rachael Albers sang part of the iconic Joni Mitchell song “Big Yellow Taxi.”

“They paved paradise, put up a parking lot. With a pink hotel, a boutique and a swingin’ hot spot. Don’t it always seem to go. They paved paradise and put up a warehouse development.”

June Maher of Geneva Township presented a mock-up of the city seal. Instead of artwork of a burr oak, Maher’s seal showed a stump.

“I feel that this new logo is now your legacy,” Maher said. “You own it. You have allowed this to happen through inaction. You will own it. This will be the legacy of this administration, of this City Council.”

Geneva Township resident June Maher changed the city of Geneva’s seal of a burr oak to a stump, in protest of a developer’s plan to cut 65 burr oaks for a warehouse.

Her husband, Brian Maher, said he woke up to the sound of saws in the woods.

“And there is now a 30-foot-wide gash in the heart of this oak woodlands,” Brian Maher said.

Mayor Kevin Burns said he has received many emails from people interested in saving the oaks who asked him to intervene and asked the developer to move the warehouse.

He provided his email answer to all of them:

“This proposed development is in the nascent stages and until additional data is provided and a full and complete application for annexation is made to the city of Geneva, vetted by the city’s professional staff and Planning and Zoning Commission and ultimately advanced to the City Council for consideration, we on the council are prohibited from expressing our own opinions for risk of violating the due diligence policies adopted by the council and present in law. The Planning and Zoning Commission is also bound by these standards. “

Burns’ email also said the city will address all concerned – as well as “misinformation that is being labeled as ‘facts.’ ”

“So when all the regulatory bodies are ready to consider this development [or any development], they can do so with confidence knowing that the information before them is accurate,” Burns’ email said.

Midwest Industrial Funds officials have not returned voicemail messages or emails requesting comment about the trees. One Midwest Industrial Funds official who answered his extension hung up once a reporter said her name.

Tree activists have garnered 2,200 signatures on a petition in support of preserving the trees and have a webpage,

Kane County does not have a tree preservation ordinance.