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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."

RationalTht June 13, 2012 at 03:56 PM
The homeowners should be paid for the broken commitment - maybe a permanent reduction in their property taxes relative to the rest of Lake County?
The Q June 13, 2012 at 04:20 PM
details ....details.....
The Q June 13, 2012 at 04:21 PM
I mean get real.......you should have not bought a home til the golf course was opened. Its called Buyer Beware.......
Sonny Cohen June 13, 2012 at 04:46 PM
Dear The Q, In spite of my fervent opposition to the golf course, give the homeowners their due. The golf course WAS opened when they purchased. The expectation there would be a golf course "in perpetuity" was another victim of the changing and fickle world we live in. This is only one of many missed expectations everyone has faced. However, to RationalTht, I don't believe that "disappointment" or "golf remorse" should be financially compensated. Maybe by working to insure the Ft. Sheridan Forest Preserve emerges as the remarkable amenity it can be is the best compensation. I believe in a day not too distant when the preserve's presence will drive home sales and property values.
Steve June 13, 2012 at 07:33 PM
Ok so I have always been pro goplf course and still feel the County stole the property from the Army. They should not have let the county off the hook. That being said I do understand that the demand for golf is down. But that does not mean that property should never be a golf course. It is my belief that a golf course should be built on this property when the need returns and until then any improvements done to the property should be done with great care not to impeed the ability to build a course in the future. Any and all paths built should be built with the intention of makiung them cart paths in the future. Also, I believe something that should have been done long ago should take place now. There is a high demand for burial plots in the Ft Sheridan Cemetery. But because of limited space many are turned away or put on waiting lists. It is my belief that this needs to be addressed. There is now plenty of land available and I believe a portion of that land should be given to the Ft Sheridan Cemetery so that our veterans and their families have the opportunity to be buried there with the full honors they deserve. That Cemetery is not only a proud place for veterans to be commemorated but also a place that holds great history. It needs to stay and should be allowed to be enlarged. For anyh of you that have not been to this cemetery, you need to go see it. Read the markers and see some of our finest men and women that have served this country.
Steve June 13, 2012 at 07:34 PM
There are even several graves of German soldiers who died while housed inside the gates of Ft Sheridan as prisoners of war during WW2. These soldiers were treated remarkably well by their captors and often went off base to aid in many duties asked of them by the local residents. They loved being at Ft Sheridan and many went home after the war and got their families and returned. One such prisoner was Helmut Lenz. He returned after the war to Lake Forest and became a Barber. He grew his clientele and eventually had his own Barber shop in downtown Lake forest called Lenz's Barber shop. Again there are many who wish to be buried in this cemetery who should have the right to be there. Size is the only thing keeping that from happening. I believe that we as a greatful public should insist that the County offer whatever amount of land the Cemetery needs.
Stuart Senescu June 13, 2012 at 08:03 PM
How about all those who want the County to build a golf course, get together and form a corporation to operate the course. Then if they make money as they think it will, they can keep the profits, but if they lose money, it comes out of their pockets. And by the way, for those so addicted to golf, i suggest you take your golf carts and putt putt your way over to the Highland Park Golf Course on Park Avenue or Sunset Valley golf course in town. Both are operated with taxpayer support. How many golf courses do you need within a couple of miles of your house?
David Greenberg June 13, 2012 at 08:04 PM
Golf rounds are on the decline. We already have two golf courses here in HP that the taxpayers subsidize: Sunset Valley, and the HP Country Club. We don't need a third course to further cannibalize the rounds played. If the Course isn't able to sustain 100% of it's operational, current and future maintenance needs from the rounds played - close it. Let it return to it's natural state and let hikers/mountain bikers use it for a nominal fee - say $10 - to cover the costs of mowing the trails... If and when golf ever comes back, you have the land to develop into a golf course.
Walter (Tripp) Hainsfurther June 13, 2012 at 08:31 PM
While I am not an attorney, I believe the property was marketed to prospecytive buyers as having a golf course. SInce there was a deed restriction that mandated that a golf course be maintained on the site, it would seem that the developer could rely on this fact and that he marketed the property accordingly. Therefore, it would also seem the developer and the homeowners could have a viable action against the county for removing the existing golf course and not replacing it.
The Q June 13, 2012 at 08:36 PM
lol
The Q June 13, 2012 at 08:45 PM
you mean stop wasting tax payers money on things that people barely use to begin with..........well that just makes too much sense David. But they promised to build me my own personal golf course........I don't care what it costs other people!
Stuart Senescu June 13, 2012 at 08:59 PM
While i am an attorney, i would want to ask what it is in the homeowners deeds. From whom did the buyer obtain title? If the deed i received does not descend from the land which has the deed restriction of the Army's grant to the County, i'm probably out of luck. Perhaps the Developers of the homes relied on that golf course deed to sell to the homeowners. If that is the case the Developer misled the buyers. But if the County did not sell the land, and the golf course deed is not in the chain, i think bringing a suit against the County is going to be tough. E.g., the City of HP said they were going to build a park on Lot X, and I bought land from Owner Z right next to Lot X, but my land was never part of Lox X, then i may have been misled by Z but i probably have no claim against the City. This information is for general purposes only and is not to be considered a legal opinion or the solicitation of clients nor the establisment of any attorney-client relationship.
Peter Lucas June 13, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Granted, the Army and the Forest Preserve fumbled the ball regarding the deeding of the property, but let’s not forget what a tough and lengthy fight with the Army it was to just get Ft. Sheridan developed into the community it is today. There was a time when it looked as though that was not going happen. Thank you Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.) for pulling the plug on the Army’s half baked plans for the property. But even then, there was bickering over how the land was to be developed and historic preservation of buildings. Then, just as now with the golf course debate, not everyone got what they wanted. Still, it all seemed to work out--until the debate over the golf course reared its ugly head again. The open lands may not be the golf course promised, but they are jewel in the midst of suburban sprawl that can be enjoyed year round by everyone. They should be cherished, because there aren’t any other public sanctuaries on this scale between here and Chicago. It may not be the perfect solution, but it’s not a bad compromise either.
Steve June 13, 2012 at 11:55 PM
The point I try to make time and again, Is that there was a golf course on the property! It was making enough money to support itself and then some. It was a nice place to play while all the other so called public courses treated you like a second class citizens and charged way to much. No wonder they are dying on the vine. But the bottom line is the restriction was in the land deed. The course was there. The county pulled the plug on it in haste and bungled the waste dirt issue. The county screwed up big time. There was no need to buiild a new course, there was one there already! It made enough money to reinvest year after year to make it a better course. But this was not done, even though those of us that playted it suggested this over and over. Now because they screwed up, the county wants a pass for their error. And they get a huge parcel of land for free without having to fulfill their commitment. Gee isn't justice wonderful in this country!! The taxpayers never would have had to be involved, but now that they screwed up, it's an issue. Don't get mad at those of us that want the course, get mad at the screw ups that are running your Lake County Forest Preserve District. They could not think beyond the end of their nose. LCFPD dropped the ball and now they want a pass on their responsibility. Is that what we should have in this country? Hold nobody accountable? Let's see how you feel about it when something like this happens that affects something you care about!
The real anonymous June 14, 2012 at 03:31 AM
It wasn't just that they "dropped the ball" quite the opposite. The County intentinally destoryed the old golf course because they wanted to build a classier nicer one, but when the bids came in too high they changed their tune. They didn't just drop the ball, this was a distruction of public property and total mismanagement of the issue by the Lake County Board. History or not- I have yet to ever hear any of them including Anne Bassi accept responsiblity for this act of public policy malpractice!
Kristin Rol Gannon June 14, 2012 at 03:55 AM
I like the open land. No more golf courses please. There are many course a short ride from Ft Sheridan. The county doesn't need to be in the golf course business.
Steve June 14, 2012 at 04:01 AM
Amen,The Real Anonymous- The ego's insisted that what was there was not good enough and they could not wait to build the eighth wonder of the world because it was lakefront property!! They stripped the greens, and tore down the clubhouse!! All fully functional!! And then they went out for bid!! oops, Cart before the horse maybe?? And then accepted a huge amount of waste dirt from Richard Stein the developer of the Fort Property!! Did they check if the dirt was useable?? No we are goping to need dirt to build our golf course!! The dirt was contaminated and un useable!! The cost to remove was outrageous!! Hence a lawsuit ensued!! More money wated by your LCFPD!! SO guess what, How much golf course could have been built for what they spent to fight the suit? You all talk of costs, has anyone looked into what this whole scrfew up already cost the taxpayer?? Sorry, but a tragedy has taken place here and somebody should pay for it. So again quit huiffing and puffing about the cost to the taxpayer, (probably a non golf playing taxpayer anyway) And start thinking about the huge screw up and cost that has already taken place!!As far as I am concerned the LCFPD should have to b uild the course using their own funds!! They are the ones who created this mess!! I have no sympathy on this topic! The County already knew a high end golf course was a losing proposition! They had the prime example! Thunderhawk!
Peter Lucas June 14, 2012 at 04:31 AM
Sounds like things are getting too personal here, which is par for the course in this forum (no pun intended). In regards to history, George Santayana once wrote those who ignore history are bound to repeat it. This golf course we are arguing over was originally scheduled for demolition, along with a few other non-essentials in Ft. Sheridan like the Water Tower, the riding stable, etc. when the Army planned its exit. It was all part of a brilliant plan by the Army to swap the land on which Ft. Ft Sheridan was built--sans the cemetery and the Reserve Center--for a few acres of land in suburban Washington D.C. to build a museum in Virginia. The Ft. Sheridan land swap did not include a golf course and the developer’s plan looked pretty much like what the Glen turned out to be. I understand anger at politicians that care little for the people they serve, but maybe it’s time we redirect that emotion toward electing better officials to govern the resources we have--natural and financial--by thoroughly vetting them before we go to the polls and voting accordingly. An election year is coming up...what we do with it is up to us.
Me June 14, 2012 at 12:26 PM
Don't forget the traffic. Turning this property into a public beach will turn this area into a monumental traffic disaster.
RationalTht June 15, 2012 at 03:05 PM
"The Q" - you are saying basically never to trust the government to do what it says, correct...
Sonny Cohen June 15, 2012 at 03:16 PM
There is a planning process taking place now. The kickoff for public input regarding traffic, lakeshore as well as many other issues is encouraged. As well as commenting your concerns about the public beach here, you and everyone who has a point of view on how the property should be managed sans golf course should submit their comments to fort@lcfpd.org. Don't be cynical, be proactive and participatory.
Steve June 15, 2012 at 05:35 PM
Sonny are you part of the LCFPD board? The golf course issue is why there is a large amount of emotional feelings here. Those of us who wanted the course feel very strongly about the topic. So we are not going to just go quietly away while the LCFPD gets a pass on their responsibilities to the public they are supposed to serve. So please do not try to hush us on the golf course topic. Thank You. As far as ideas for what to do with the property, see my first comment in this thread. I made my suggestions. Give a large parcel of the land to the Ft Sheridan Cemetery for the soldiers and their families. The existing cemetery is to small and has a waiting list. They deserve it more than we do. Secondly anything done should be kept in line with the possibility that the course could be built in the future when play and demand goes up, which it will. Do this and the costs will not be as high to do so in the future and less burden of the taxpayers. Hiking paths could be built with the intent to make them part of the golf course cart paths in the future. The opportunity is now to think beyond the imediate and to plan for the future. This type of planning will be cost saving down the road. The county could take lessons from Lake Forest and how they handle their open lands. Why not give them a call!
Steve June 15, 2012 at 06:06 PM
By the way, let's get the facts straight here. The golf course that existed when the LCFPD was given the land and a "deed restriction" to maintain or build a new golf course, was financially viable. It not only paid for itself but the excess profits were paying to support Thunderhawk, the Golden Child course the LCFPD felt the county needed and then charged an arm and a leg to play. They never had enough play up there to suppoort that course, even though golf was very popular at the time. We who played Ft Sheridan told the satff over and over, keep this couse the way it is, there are already many high caliber professional grade courses in the area. Many public and many private. So the course was not closed for financial shortfalls at all.
Steve June 15, 2012 at 06:07 PM
The course was closed because the LCFPD was anxious to build another 8th wonder of the world. They also needed the greens on another LCFPD course that had badly damaged greens. The problem was they went ahead with the demolition of the clubhouse and the stripping of the greens before they ever got a full architectural plan for the course or a bid for what the cost was going to be. They also accepted a large amount of excavated dirt that was loaded with Hazardous Material from the developer of the residential portion of Ft Sheridan. They never checked to see if the dirt was useable. This caused a very expensive lawsuit, and also cost the county significant money to remove the haz mat and redistribute the remaining useable dirt. When the bid came in for the new golf course, not only was the old course gone to the point of not being able to resurect it, but the new plan was so expensive the county could not afford to do the project. So while your sitting here hollering about the cost to the taxpayers, realize that those of us that want the course and who played it, would have been perfectly happy with the couse the way it was. The excess proffits could have been reinvested into the course over the years and the course could have been improved at no cost to the taxpayers. So while your sitting here defending the LCFPD realize where the responsability lies, and that there never was a need to cost the taxpayers anything. The LCFPD created this mess and now want absolution.
Steve June 15, 2012 at 06:07 PM
The buyer beware comment is ridiculous. You buy a home for it's benefits thinking long term as to whether it will be an asset or a liability to you. There was a deed restriction in place that should have been there to protect the new homeowners. And that is why this is such an issue. They do have a right to have what they bought. A large part of the purchase price of that home was because it was going to be in a golf course community!
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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