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Board Member makes generous appeal to City to save the Ponds

A Naperville resident is offering to personally help finance purchasing the land between the ponds of Hobson West.

Paula Dulli, who lives in the neighborhood, has told elected officials that if the city would loan the park district the $1.6 million it is short to purchase the six acres, she would pay the interest on the loan for two or three years.

Dulli said Thursday she believes the land is a unique area in the city and should be preserved as a park.

"Let's give our children a place to play ball and soccer and swim and fish and do all the things kids should be doing," she said. "I don't want to live in a concrete jungle filled with houses and townhouses."

However, the city council has not publicly shown interest in the offer and the park board would not comment on it at Thursday's board meeting.

The park district already owns the nine acres that make up the ponds, but residents have been pushing it for more than two years to purchase the land in between to create a 15-acre park. The land is located between Plainfield-Naperville Road and West Street.

Owner Crestview Builders is asking for $4.1 million for the property but the park district is offering $2.5 million, citing the additional costs it would incur to make it a recreational area.

Dulli said if the park district gets the money to make the initial purchase, she would lead a charge to raise more money for the project either through donations or a tax increase via referendum.

"I believe we have enough people in this city who, when they understand the significance of what's going on, will be happy to contribute," she said.

Crestview plans to build townhouses on the land if it is not sold to the park district. The city council originally forbade the developer from building on the land for a year while the park district decided whether to purchase it. When that deadline expired earlier this month, the two sides agreed to extend it until Jan. 30.

Crestview attorney Kathy West said Thursday she has not spoken to the park board recently, but she has previously indicated that this latest deadline is final.

The city council voted earlier this month not to provide further assistance on the project and did not discuss the issue publicly when it met Tuesday despite Dulli's offer.

At Thursday's park board meeting, commissioners only discussed the land in closed session and did not take any action.

Board President Kristen Jungles would not comment on Dulli's offer. She also said she has not had any recent conversations with the city about a loan.

Neither the city council nor park board have any business meetings scheduled before the Jan. 30 deadline. Jungles is unsure whether a special park board meeting will be called in the remaining two weeks.

Story by Melissa Jenco "The Daily Herald", January 18th, 2008