Judge puts O'Hare expansion plan on hold

ABSTRACT

Bensenville officials had sought a preliminary injunction against the demolition, which [Kenneth Popejoy] granted. But he also ruled that the properties owned by Chicago aren't subject to local regulations, emphasizing Bensenville's lack of authority to stop the project.

"For the foreseeable future, the residents of Bensenville are protected," said Joseph Karagnis, a Bensenville attorney. "This is an absolute safeguard for protection of public health."

The city of Chicago can't demolish vacant buildings it owns in Bensenville to make way for the $15 billion O'Hare International Airport expansion project before conducting environmental testing, a judge has ruled.

DuPage County Judge Kenneth Popejoy said Wednesday the city needs to conduct a study of possible hazards on the nearly 400 vacant properties before the project can move forward. He said he wants to make sure toxic materials like asbestos won't be released during demolition.

"I am not going to risk the residents of Bensenville and the other residents in the surrounding area," Popejoy said.

Bensenville officials had sought a preliminary injunction against the demolition, which Popejoy granted. But he also ruled that the properties owned by Chicago aren't subject to local regulations, emphasizing Bensenville's lack of authority to stop the project.

Richard Friedman, an attorney for Chicago, said the city already had pledged not to proceed with demolition until "we know what is there."

"The city has made a commitment that it won't make these demolitions in a way that is harmful to the community," Friedman said in court.

It's not clear how long the study will take. Popejoy said he will schedule a hearing when the tests are complete to determine whether or not the demolition should proceed.

"For the foreseeable future, the residents of Bensenville are protected," said Joseph Karagnis, a Bensenville attorney. "This is an absolute safeguard for protection of public health."

The FAA has said the O'Hare expansion project will reduce delays at the airport by 68 percent.


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