Is the Fort Sheridan Golf Debate Over?
Letter from Army says that as long as the land is used for open space it's not in violation of the deed.
For years, the residents of Fort Sheridan have wondered whether or not the Army would choose to enforce the deed restriction that required a golf course to be built at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve.
It seems they finally have their answer.
In a letter from the Army to Highwood mayor Charlie Pecaro that was released June 5, the Army indicated the county no longer needs to worry about losing its land if it doesn't use it for golf.
"The Army… does not have the authority to compel the Lake County Forest Preserve to develop and operate a golf course," the letter reads.
The letter suggests that if the Lake County Forest Preserve decides to use Fort Sheridan for public trails or open space instead of a golf course, it will not be violating the deed.
This is bad news for Fort Sheridan residents who have been advocating for a golf course for years, using the deed restriction as support for why a golf course should be built.
"Effectively, they lose," said Sonny Cohen, a vocal advocate for open land and public trails at Fort Sheridan. "They have every reason to be deeply disappointed."
There have been many arguments in the past two years about why or why not to build a golf course at Fort Sheridan. Some argued a golf course would increase the property value of the surrounding homes, while some argued the opposite.
Cohen told Patch that he believes open space could be more beneficial for property values than a golf course would have been.
"The reality is that the value of their property does not accrue from the fact there are people hitting a white ball around their backyard," Cohen said. "This is not a pocketbook issue."
While some have argued that the golf industry is hurting, Bill Lolli, an advocate for the golf course, disagrees. The Fort Sheridan resident believes that a golf course at Fort Sheridan would pay for itself.
"I don't believe golf is dead, as the county wants to indicate," Lolli told Patch last week.
Though Cohen embraces the letter as a clear victory, Lolli maintain hope. He says he and other golf course advocates are considering legal options. First, between the county and the Army, they need to figure out who to sue.
"Myself and a number of other people haven't given up yet," Lolli said. "The golfers have been wronged," he said.
Lolli said he will not stop pursuing a golf course at Fort Sheridan until "every possible approach... has been exhausted."
"We're not giving up," he said.
County board candidates want a win-win solution
Lake County Board candidates Steve Mandel and Laura Lambrecht discussed the topic with Patch last week. Mandel believes there's still room in the letter for interpretation. He wonders if the Army might still be able to exercise the right to take the land back from the county if a golf course is not built. However, he believes a solution that pleases both sides should be pursued if possible.
"How can we create a win-win situation for everyone?" he asked.
Lambrecht agrees with Mandel's perspective. The Republican candidate would like to find "a good solution that everyone can live with."
But according to Cohen, a win-win solution in this situation just doesn't seem possible.
"There never really has been a happy medium," Cohen said. "It really wasn't a compromise issue."
Though Lolli plans to continue the fight for the golf course, Cohen hopes others will instead start working with him to come up with a collaborative public trails plan for the land.
"If you guys are going to go in a corner and sulk or continue to whine you're going to miss out on an opportunity to influence this piece of property," Cohen said. "Let's get together on this."