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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.

'They lose'

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, "They have every reason to be deeply disappointed."

There have been many arguments in the past two years about or 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

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."

The Q June 15, 2012 at 06:17 PM
Steve is pretty obvious you could care less about the financial vibilty of a proposed golf course......who cares if the course that was there did not lose money that was 15 years ago. Today they dont make money plain and simple......the FP does not have the financial resources. There are plenty of other courses to go play at.....have fun. A golf course could only be used by golfer maybe the rest of us would like soemthing we could all enjoy.........I know how selfish. And yes Buyer Beware.........becuase until something is built and opened there are always risks that it will not.
Steve June 15, 2012 at 08:08 PM
Q , So contracts and deed restrictions are just paper and don't have any value? They are nopt worth the paper they're printed on ? Then whgy do lawyers make so much money drafting them and why do two or more parties have to agree about them? They should be enforceable should they not? Please, Again, I reitterate, my suyggestions for the property currently is to make your improvements and enjoy the open space, but keep the option of building the course in the future viable. And also, give land to the Ft Sheridan Cemetery. Or is that selfish thinking also? Try reading things thoroughly before you reply again! And quit whining about the cost to the taxpayers and get angry at how the whole thing has been handled. That is my point about this whole thing, You see I am looking at the entire picture, your view is strictly from your wallet! I live in Lake County also, you don't think I will have to pay into the tax pool also? The people that get these taxes need to take responsibility for how they are handled. And this was a huge debacle. And nobody is getting this point! The LCFPD has a major issue on their hands and they need to answer for it. Go look at Ed Brills latest article on this topic that came out today. Then come talk to me.
Ed Brill June 16, 2012 at 07:38 PM
The question would certainly chew up attorneys fees for LCFPD for a long time. At taxpayer expense.
Ed Brill June 16, 2012 at 07:42 PM
In previous columns on this topic over the last three years, I have analyzed the claims that a golf course would not make money at Fort Sheridan and found them to be completely bogus. The cost estimates to construct have been routinely 2-3x the cost of other golf course construction throughout the United States. And this land is already prepared for construction - it doesn't have to be remediated! Highland Park has made it clear that one of their public golf courses will close in the next few years. Just because the sport is "in decline" does not make it unprofitable to operate golf courses. LCFPD has inflicted this charade on the county and voters for more than two years. Do your own research and you'll see.
Ed Brill June 16, 2012 at 07:44 PM
Also - the plan was always to have a mixed use facility with both golf and nature trails. You'd have what you have today mixed in with golf. So it wouldn't be used "just" by golfers. Further, there was a course on the site so "buyer beware" doesn't apply.... in what world would anyone have forseen the LCFPD shutting down the existing course and not building the one they committed to and accepted a land restriction in order to operate?

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