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Judge Clears Way For O'Hare Demolitions

By Marcus Gilmer in News on Aug 8, 2008 2:15PM

2008_08_08_ohare.JPGOn Thursday, DuPage Circuit Judge Kenneth Popejoy ruled in favor of the city of Chicago, allowing them to demolish roughly 500 homes in the Bensenville suburb to make way for the proposed O'Hare runway expansion. Popejoy said, "The plaintiffs' experts at most testified that there may be an issue of concern...Tentative questions and concerns do not constitute actual harm." The demolition was put on hold a year ago when Popejoy ordered, "an environmental study to guard against the release of any hazardous materials during demolition" after attorneys for the village claimed that such a demolition would release toxins into the air.

For their part, officials of Bensenville aren't backing down. Bensenville attorney Joseph Karaganis claims the village will file an appeal with both Judge Popejoy and the state of Illinois, adding, "If a bulldozer shows up on a street of the Village of Bensenville, the Village of Bensenville is the owner of those streets and is in control of those streets." Village President John Gelis also had some choice words, saying, "Chicago has failed to show how they plan to pay for this misguided billion-dollar boondoggle." He added, "We'll take whatever steps we have to to stop this destruction. Why are you going to destroy this beautiful neighborhood when there is never going to be an O'Hare Modernization Program?" Gelis also called Mayor Daley "vindictive" and claimed, "We all remember Meigs Field," referencing Daley's controversial and illegal decision in March 2003 to destroy the runway at Meigs Field airport by having bulldozers gouge X's into the runway, effectively closing the airport.

Many of the homes in the affected area of Bensenville are now vacant, bought by the city; only 30 families remaining in the area that will be razed. One such resident is 83-year old Arlene Benson, who says that what the city offered her for her house wasn't enough to relocate: "I couldn't afford what we have here." Another resident, Jerry Hatchett, is equally nonplussed about the arrangement. "I'm not too happy about it...I don't have no neighbors. But I know it's gonna be short-lived. You know, when they make their decision, we'll be packin' up and gettin' out of here." Officials for the city say the demolition likely won't happen until the end of the year. [Trib, S-T, CBS2]