Bensenville's strategy on O'Hare is explained; Village's attorney tells residents about anti-expansion moves

About 50 Bensenville residents attended an informational meeting this week that included updates on the proposed O'Hare airport expansion.

With the City of Chicago's expansion plans in limbo until it tests soil in the acquisition area, residents wondered if village officials could guarantee that their parts of Bensenville would not be razed in the future.

"One of the things you learn shortly after leaving law school is to never guarantee anything," Village Atty. Joe Karaganis told residents in a question-and-answer period.

He then described the village's strategy to stop the city from tearing down parts of the village for the multiyear, $15 billion runway expansion project. Bensenville officials claim Chicago doesn't have the money to complete the project, which is at least $400 million over budget and behind schedule.

"Chicago needs $3.2 billion for this project, which they say would increase passenger traffic from 34 million a year to 60 million," Karaganis told the residents Monday night. "They'd need 3 [million] to 4 million square feet of terminal space to handle that, but so far, they're only talking about building runways.

"Our best plan is to continue to question the validity of the money they are seeking. We feel it's blatant fraud."

Karaganis also told the crowd about a court decision in which a DuPage County judge on July 25 issued a temporary restraining order forbidding Chicago from tearing down any of the 370 vacant properties it owns in the area.

"Even before the ink on the restraining order had dried, Chicago moved in the next morning, declaring it was going to start trimming trees," Karaganis said. "The equipment they were using was bulldozers, which yanked the trees out of the ground and swallowed them into a chipper."

The two sides appeared in court July 26, and Judge Kenneth Popejoy halted Chicago from doing any kind of work that might disturb soil before it can be tested for contaminants.

Chicago must eventually come up with a plan that shows how it would deal with possible toxic substances in the acquisition area. The court is scheduled to review the matter again Monday.