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  Last year more people used the County's forest preserves than visited Yellowstone National Park.

Pair disputes Dominican's land claim

Thursday, August 04, 2005
River Forest Forest Leaves

Two Cook County commissioners are urging county President John Stroger to file legal action or appoint an independent review regarding Dominican University's plan to build an access road across a triangle of Thatcher Woods.

Cook County Commissioners Larry Suffredin and Mike Quigley made the request in a letter to Stroger on Thursday, in reaction to Village Administrator Chuck Biondo's comments on the site published in last week's Forest Leaves. The letter came one week after Dominican unveiled preliminary plans to build a parking garage with an access driveway through a section of restored woodland.

The land dispute began last year when the university sought a permanent 2,240-square-foot easement through a 4-acre tract between the school and Thatcher Avenue. The school proposes building the road 250 feet south of Greenfield Street. Dominican dropped the easement request in February stating it already owns the property.

"The issue of who controls this land, who owns the land, and what rights any easement may give a party must be decided soon to avoid further confusion and possible costly litigation," the commissioners' letter states.

Dominican University President Donna Carroll Tuesday said she is surprised and disappointed Suffredin and Quigley continue to press the ownership issue.

"We've talked directly with them," Carroll said. "All of our due diligence that we've presented to President Stroger shows the property in question is the university's."

University officials said they plan to apply this month for River Forest approval of the proposed parking garage.

"We're still waiting for Dominican to make their approach," Biondo said Monday. "Their attorney has presented their case to our village attorney, and it appeared to have logic and make sense."

Biondo said last week the village doesn't own the land in question. He said "it's my understanding the western half, 33 feet, is owned by the Cook County Forest Preserve. The eastern 33 feet is owned by Dominican University." The village has a 66-foot right-of-way easement on the property, he said. Biondo said the village would have to grant the university a permit to build a driveway across the easement.

Suffredin said Monday he planned to meet with Stroger after press time Tuesday to discuss the matter. Suffredin reiterated an earlier threat to push the matter into court.

"There is no resolution on our side and we have acted for a long period of time as though we own that property. For us not to take some formal action to resolve this is irresponsible," he said. "If the president won't follow through with taking action to quiet title or appointing an independent special master to study this, then we'll be forced into court on our own. To be horsed into that corner would be unfortunate."

Representatives from Dominican July 21 presented preliminary plans for a proposed parking garage to the Village's Development Review Board.

"We're moving forward through the normal channels with our plans," Carroll said. "The (legal) council has indicated that it's not a Forest Preserve issue. We're working with the village to move ahead."


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