Midam sold the property (two parcels) between the two ponds (the Clark Farm house on about six acres) to Dr. Soper, a local dentist. Upon his death, his family sold the property to Crestview Builders of Naperville in the spring of 2004, which was zoned single-family residential at the time. They made an initial proposal to build 29 town house units on the six acre properties (then called the Ponds of Hobson West). In November 2004, Crestview Builders made a presentation to Hobson West homeowners at the Barn on Martin Avenue to try to “sell” their proposal to the Hobson West residents.
An attempt was made to get the DuPage Forrest Preserve to buy the property from the developers. Community residents, who had obtained over 1,000 signatures of nearby residents against the rezoning, became active in the process to save the property from being developed with townhouses. [Hobson West residents, led mainly by a group of about 5-6 residents, attended (over a four year timeframe), many meetings of the Naperville Planning Commission, the Naperville City Council, and then the Naperville Park District. They also contacted the Conservation Foundation.]
On November 3, 2004 the Naperville Plan Commission held a public hearing on the proposed 29 units in 6 buildings. At a Plan Commission meeting on December 8, 2004, approval was denied.
There had been a number of discussions, etc. with the Naperville Park District to acquire the “Ponds of Hobson West” property. Prior to the City Council vote to approve the builders rezoning request, the Park District was asked to acquire the property. Some community residents had contacted the then Executive Director of the Park District and the Planning Director about acquiring the property. They were told that it did not fit the profile of land (at least 15 acres) the Park District would be interested in acquiring. Also, the Park District sent a letter to the City of Naperville indicating they were not interested in the property.
Another public hearing by the Naperville Plan Commission was held on February 5, 2006; and, Crestview Builders failed to get the Naperville Plan Commission’s approval on April 26, 2006 to now build 5 buildings containing 22 townhouses.
Crestview Builders then petitioned the Naperville City Council for a zoning change and to build the townhouses. On October 17, 2006, a City Council vote to retain the property as single-family residential zoning failed. But, the City Council voted to have the Park district and the Conservation foundation to seek ways to purchase open space properties. On December 5, 2006, by a 5 to 4, vote on a motion to have the city purchase the property failed.
On January 2, 2007, the Naperville City Council approved, by a 5 to 4 vote, the rezoning to multifamily residential and approved the building of the proposed townhouses. This was subject to the developer agreeing not to build on the property for twelve months (to allow time for a governmental body to purchase the property) and to fix the price at the then market value of the property (about $3.3 million) as if it was still zoned as single-family residential.
The residents then decided to directly approach the Park District Commissioners to ask them to buy the property. On January 4, 2007, at the regular meeting of the Park District Commissioners, about 25 residents asked the Park district to consider purchasing the property.
Again at the next regular meeting of the Park Board on February 8, 2007, several residents again asked that the property be purchased. As a result, the Park Board came to a consensus that there should be a comprehensive approach to buying open space properties. The Park district Staff was directed to investigate whether the District should acquire the “Hobson Ponds” property. The staff was also directed to present at the next Park Board meeting (March 8) a timeline and board actions addressing available properties for purchase, specifically including the “Hobson Ponds” property.
At the Park Board meeting on March 8, 2007, there was no discussion about the “Hobson Ponds” property, nor any presentations by the Park District staff. However, $40,000 was approved for a consulting firm to provide a 2007 open space and recreational master plan.
On Wednesday, March 21, 2007, a candidate forum was held by the Naperville Area Homeowners Confederation for those seven people seeking the three Park Commissioner positions up for election. The candidates were asked whether the Park district should buy the “Hobson Ponds” property. Six of the candidates gave strong affirmative responses and the other did not oppose the purchase.
At the Park Board meetings on April 12, 2007 and May 10, 2007, residents again asked the Park Board to acquire the property. Still, the Park Board made no comment about these requests. At both the June 14, 2007 and the July 12, 2007 Park Board meetings, the Park District was again asked to buy the property and it was stressed that the one-year delay on construction on the site was half over and the District needed to make a decision. Still, no comment by the Park District Commissioners on the subject.
On July 25, 2007, about ten residents met with a reporter for the Daily Herald to discuss the “Hobson Ponds” property. An article and picture appeared in the newspaper several days later.
At the Naperville City Council meeting on August 6, 2007, the council members discussed a letter received from the Naperville Park District requesting a meeting where funding of the purchase of the “Hobson Ponds” property could be considered. The $3.3 million price was mentioned as well as a suggestion that the City should consider paying any difference if the selling price was higher since the city was responsible for the increase in value of the property.
At the August 9, 2007 Park Board meeting, about 20 residents again spoke to the Park Commissioners about the importance about purchasing the property and to make a decision. The Park District President said that options were being evaluated and that funding considerations needed to be addressed.
On September 3, 2007, a number of residents participated in the Last Fling Parade entry of the West Street Greenspace Preservation Coalition that focused on saving open space and, in particular, the open space between the Hobson Ponds.
At the September 13, 2007 Park Board meeting, several residents commented on the efforts of the Park District related to the “Ponds of Hobson West” property.
On October 3, 2007, several residents met with two Park Board Commissioners to discuss with them what the residents could do to keep the purchase of the “Ponds of Hobson West” property by the Park District a viable possibility. Since time is running out, the residents indicated that Board members should be held accountable by voting in public instead of only discussing a purchase in Executive Sessions.
A small group formed Naperville Save Open Spaces to try and prevent the property being developed and have a public body purchase the property. They encouraged more residents to attend public meetings and voice their concerns.
At the Park Board meeting on October 11, 2007, presentations were made that:
- Emphasized a shift by the residents to not only support the purchase of the “Ponds of Hobson West” property but to focus on saving open space in the Naperville area,
- Stated intentions to create a Naperville Save Open Space foundation.
- Discussed possible uses of the property,
- Discussed limited matching-fund grant money that could be available, and
- Recognized that the 2004 Park District Survey called for acquisition of open space as the top priority.
A number of other residents from different areas of the city spoke in favor of the Park District purchasing the land. The Park Board President said that the “Ponds of Hobson West” property would be on the agenda for the November 8, 2007 Park District Board meeting.
At the Naperville City Council meeting on October 16, 2007, several residents spoke about the need to save open space throughout Naperville, formation of a Naperville Save Open Space foundation, and the city pursuing up to $750,000 matching funds from the State of Illinois to acquire the “Ponds of Hobson West “ property. The City Manager was directed to look into the matching fund possibility.
On October 24, 2007, several residents met with people from the “Naperville Connections” television program on the local Naperville television channel. Some filming was done for a short segment for the ½ hour program that was to be aired several times a day for a week or two.
At the November 8, 2007 Park District Board meeting, no specifics were stated by the Board other than the Park District was working with the Conservation Foundation.
In early December 2007, the Park Board attorney sent a letter explaining why they were only offering $2.5 million for the property.
At the December 18, 2007 City Council meeting, several residents spoke to the Council about the property and that time was running out. The attorney for Crestview Builders piped up that he had sent a letter to the Park District that very day.
The letter stated that the Park Districts offer was rejected and that the developer now wanted $4.1 million for the property and that additional time would be considered to extend the delay in construction.
A reply letter by the Park District acknowledged the extension until January 30, 2008.
At a Special Meeting of the Park District Board on December 18, 2007, the Park Board was asked to consider acquiring the property through its eminent domain power and to get an injunction to prevent the property from being destroyed during that process.
At the January 2, 2008 City Council meeting an attorney for Crestview stated that Crestview would be unwilling to extend the negotiation period beyond January 30, 2008. One Councilman suggested that an interest-free loan be given to the Park District to cover the difference. Another Councilman suggested that a land swap (the 5th avenue former storage site) be made with Crestview for the property. A vote to allow City staff to work with the Park District to seek ways to make the purchase by the Park district possible failed by a 4-5 vote.
At the January 10, 2008 Park District Board meeting, several residents spoke to the Board. One thing mentioned again was having a referendum to seek funds necessary to acquire the “Ponds of Hobson West” property and other open space. No action was taken by the Board.
At the January 15, 2008 City Council Meeting, five speakers again addressed the City Council. The Council took no action.
At the Special Meeting of the Park District Board on January 17, 2008, three residents were allowed to address the Board about the “Ponds of Hobson West.” One of them announced the willingness to pay the interest on $1.6 million to help in the acquisition of the property.
On January 29, 2008, the Save Open Space group held a press conference at the fishing pier at the Hobson West Pond. They stated that the group would work to place a referendum on the November 2008 ballot that would provide funding for the purchase of open space/park land for the Naperville Park District.
On January 30, 2008, the legal firm for Crestview Builders sent a letter to the Park District stating that the best use of the land was as open space and that they would still consider any reasonable offer by the Park district to purchase the land.
A Special Meeting of the Park District Board was called for January 30, 2008 to address a motion to purchase the “Ponds of Hobson West” property. About two dozen residents showed up. But, for a lack of a quorum, no meeting was held.
After a number of other Park District Commission meetings, the Park District Commissioners in November 2008 voted to purchase the property, subject to finalization of an agreement with Crestview Builders.
On March 3, 2009, two residents of Hobson West met with the Park district director to recommend minor amenities be added to the Ponds of Hobson West property (a pavilion, grills, water fountain, bathrooms, and a gravel parking lot) to increase overall use of the property. Also, it was discussed about having a celebration at the new property.
On May 9, 2009, a celebration event was held at the Ponds of Hobson West property. It was attended by several City Council Members, Park District personnel, media, and many residents. Food and refreshments were served.