Razings in O'Hare Path Put on Hold

Friday's expected demolition of as many as 370 properties in Bensenville to make room for the $15 billion O'Hare International Airport improvement project was delayed at least until July 25, after Bensenville filed an emergency request in DuPage County Circuit Court seeking the delay.

Attorneys for Bensenville and Chicago agreed Thursday not to proceed with plans until DuPage Judge Kenneth Popejoy can hold a hearing on the village's request for a permanent injunction against the demolition.

In the emergency request, Bensenville claims that Chicago's action violates its local ordinances and that the demolition endangers public health and welfare. Bensenville officials, along with Elk Grove Village officials, have fought the O'Hare expansion plan at every step over the past few years.

Chicago officials filed a required 10-day legal notice with Bensenville on June 18, warning of the demolition that they contend could have begun Friday.

Popejoy said he was prepared to hold a hearing on a temporary restraining order Thursday but asked both sides to agree to the delay to allow him to read the village's 100-page complaint and allow Chicago a chance to file a response.

Joseph Karaganis, attorney for Bensenville, told Popejoy, "We want to prevent a confrontation. The city has bulldozers lined up at our boundaries and they can start at any time. We have also heard that state police have been called in to support the city's effort."

Thomas Goedert, a city attorney, responded to Popejoy, saying that "we don't want a confrontation in the streets. Any bulldozers in the area are on O'Hare property and involved in earth-moving operations. The state police comment was made in response to being told that other police may be there for the village. We have no intention to interfere whatsoever with law enforcement."

Bensenville has promised to issue stop-work orders and arrest anyone who ignores them.

Chicago has acquired 475 of 611 parcels east of York Road and north and south of Irving Park Road needed for the massive runway expansion. Chicago contends that 370 of those properties are vacant and pose their own health and safety risk.

"The City of Chicago believes it has received all of the necessary approvals, through existing state and federal laws, to proceed with demolition," said Rosemarie Andolino, executive director of the O'Hare Modernization Program. "We are confident that once the court has had an opportunity to review the facts and issue a ruling, these demolitions can commence."

Bensenville Mayor John Geils said he believed that Chicago is "destroying an entire neighborhood in Bensenville" for a project that he believes "will never be built."

In an informal, closed-door meeting June 22, both sides presented their arguments on the demolition issue to DuPage County Judge Stephen Culliton, but Culliton declined to intervene, saying he didn't have jurisdiction.

Karaganis said the village might seek a declaratory judgment on the validity of Bensenville's recently amended demolition ordinance, which makes it tougher for Chicago to tear down the properties. A key provision puts the onus on Chicago to prove it can complete the O'Hare project, which is at least $400 million over budget and behind schedule. Bensenville officials have claimed the city doesn't have the money to complete the project.

Chicago contends it does not have to get demolition permits from Bensenville, under the state law authorizing the O'Hare project.


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