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Taking couple's ravine would cost county $700,000

Friday, July 23, 2004
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE PATTERSON

If the Cook County Forest Preserve District wants to forcibly take the home of Richard and Patricia Colant, it will have to cough up $200,000 more than it planned.

A jury ruled the Colants -- whose modest Lemont Township home is surrounded by luxury houses -- are entitled to be paid $700,000 for their house and the seven acres around it.

District officials say they're not interested in the home, but want the surrounding land because it includes a ravine that feeds into a canyon at the Camp Sagawau preserve.

The district offered the family $517,000 in 2001, but they rejected it, saying it wasn't for sale. The district responded by condemning it, hoping to forcibly take the land for its desired price.

But during a three-day trial, jurors went to the property, walked its boundaries and the house there, before deciding it was worth more than district officials claimed.

After that verdict, the Colants seemed relieved, though uncertain, as they aren't sure what the future holds -- they don't know if the district will find the price too high and give up its condemnation effort or whether it will pay the $700,000 and force them out.

Their attorney, Frank DiSalvo, said they "absolutely'' would prefer to keep calling the house "home.''

"This property was not for sale before this condemnation -- ever,'' he told the jurors Thursday.

But Forest Preserve District attorney Allen Walker told jurors to set aside emotion and grant the Colants what they believed was "fair market value'' for the house not far from Cog Hill Country Club.

Judge Sheldon Gardner gave the jury similar instructions, resulting in the verdict of $700,000.

The district eyed two properties in that area, on the south side of 111th Street, and it used a private grant for the expansion project. A neighbor sold quickly, but the Colants wanted to be left alone. But the grant specifically calls for their home to be demolished, in the name of preserving a ravine behind their home, which feeds into Cook County's only canyon.

The district has 30 days to decide whether to appeal the decision. Spokesman Steve Mayberry said district attorneys are reviewing the decision.

"Should we accept the terms of the verdict,'' he said, "we'd certainly have no problem with grants covering this amount.''





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