Geneva residents ask city to save 300-year-old trees from destruction for new development

Former Alderperson Jeanne McGowan: ‘There has to be some way to compel the developer or the owner of the land to save these trees’

Geneva residents attended Monday’s City Council meeting to advocate for saving old burr oak trees from being felled for development.

GENEVA – A proposed development on Geneva’s east side has prompted an outcry from residents who want to save about 75 burr oak trees – some of them 300 years old – from being cut down to make way for a warehouse.

Several attended the City Council meeting Monday to advocate for saving the trees that are part of a 211-acre proposed annexation and rezoning at the intersection of Route 38 and Kautz Road south to Fabyan Parkway.

Midwest Industrial Funds of Oak Brook submitted plans in October 2022. According to its website, MIF is a national real estate investment company focused on the development and acquisition of industrial properties.

Brian Maher of Geneva Township said he opposes one of the eight buildings – known as Building Five – because it would require the destruction of burr oaks that are older than the city of Geneva, which was founded in 1835.

“These trees are not being protected from being felled right now. In fact, there are white Xs on quite a few of them,” Maher said.

“A 39-inch [in diameter] tree is about 240 years old. Some of these trees are pushing 50 inches. And not only are the big trees there – there’s saplings, there are 10-year-old trees, there are 30-year-old trees, there are 100-year-old trees back there,” Maher said. “I hope Midwest Industrial Funds understands that the public values these trees. The ask here is that someone speak with MIF and let them know how the public feels about these trees.”

Geneva Township resident Brian Maher shows the girth of an old-growth burr oak in jeopardy of being cut down.

Resident Rachael Albers urged the council to take action to protect the trees.

“We have to keep these 300-year-old trees,” Albers said.

Resident Billy Malecki, who serves on the city’s Strategic Plan Advisory Committee, and former 4th Ward Alderperson Jeanne McGowan both advocated for preserving the trees.

Malecki said when the committee talks to the public every year, their No. 1 concern is environmental stewardship.

“There has to be some way to compel the developer or the owner of the land to save these trees,” McGowan said.

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.

In an earlier conversation, Maher said while Geneva has a tree ordinance, Kane County does not.

The Kane County Energy and Environmental Committee discussed moving forward with a tree ordinance June 16.

Midwest Industrial Funds officials did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

Geneva city officials did not comment about the trees or the proposed development.