One of the final challenges standing in the way of the Chicago's O'Hare Modernization Program was cleared Friday when the Circuit Court in DuPage County ruled the city could condemn a nearby cemetery, take it over, and use the space for an expanding runway.
St. John’s United Church of Christ had challenged the city's acquisition of St. Johannes Cemetery, citing religious protections afforded by the Illinois Religious and Restoration Act, but the court rejected the claims.
"We realize this is a very sensitive matter and we are committed to working closely with the families, as well as the officials from St. John’s United Church of Christ. We will continue to proceed with respect and dignity in dealing with the relatives of those interred at St. Johannes Cemetery," said Commissioner Rosemarie S. Andolino.
A Friday evening call to St. John's for reaction was not returned.
Last month, the village of Bensenville ended a decades-old fight over the expansion of the airport when it gave the all-clear for the city to swallow up hundreds of area homes in exchange for a $16 million debt payment.
Friday's ruling, together with prior rulings in the case, will allow the court to proceed expeditiously to determine the amount of money to be paid for the cemetery, after which the relocation process can begin.
Since 1849, the cemetery has been the final resting place of more than 1,300 members of St. John's United Church of Christ and their relatives, including veterans of the Civil War, members of the Underground Railroad and families that hosted President Abraham Lincoln during visits to his home state.
Relatives of those interred at St. Johannes are asked to contact the aviation department’s Cemetery Relocation and Family Assistance office at 773- 686-5136.