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Morrison Looking at Private Club Property Tax Issue

State senator is researching legislative action to require private golf clubs to pay real estate tax on their improvements. Patch poll shows overwhelming support for lawmaking.

State Sen. Julie Morrison (D-Deerfield) has decided to look at ways the Illinois General Assembly can require private golf clubs to pay property taxes on their improved real estate after learning of litigation winding its way through the court system which would allow an exemption.

The issue came to light Jan. 30 when Patch published a story describing legal action brought by the Onwentsia Club of Lake Forest contending since its golf course is open land exempt from property taxes, its buildings like its club house should not be assessed either.

Earlier: Should Legislature Require Taxes From Golf Clubs

Since taxing authorities like school and park districts which rely on the revenue would have to either reduce their revenue or increase the share paid by the other members of the community. “Somebody will have to pick up this money,” Ela Township Assessor John Barrington said. “It doesn’t go away; it just gets redistributed.” 

Morrison, whose district contains numerous private clubs including 10 in Highland Park, Deerfield, Lake Forest and Lake Bluff, was unaware of the case until recently. She then decided to consider legislation which could nullify a court ruling.

“I have given this to legal and asked them to look into it and give me some options,” Morrison said.

Patch published a poll Monday asking readers to voice their opinion on the issue. Of the 28 people responding, 23 would like to see the legislature take action and five are content to leave it to the courts.

One reader, J.J. Wheeler, is all for not taxing the golf course lands for he agrees with the majority on the buildings. He wants to see the clubs stay right where they are.

“We do not want these clubs be to bulldozed and turned into future development,” Wheeler writes. “That will bring a whole host of problems. But country clubs who own this land are now allowed to build clubhouses, temporary residences, banquet halls and other improvements to this "open space" should be taxed fairly and proportionally on those buildings.”

In addition to Onwentsia, the other clubs which could potentially receive a benefit are Shoreacres and Knollwood in Lake Bluff, Conway Farms in Lake Forest, Briarwood in Deerfield and Ravinia Green in Riverwoods along with Old Elm, Exmoor, Bob O’Link and Northmoor in Highland Park.

State Rep. Scott Drury (D-Highwood), whose district also includes all of Lake Bluff, Lake Forest, Highland Park and Deerfield did not return calls to Patch before the deadline for this story.

Walter White February 19, 2013 at 06:49 PM
OK, Jim let's put on our thinking caps for a second. If a private club incurs higher costs, do you think it will say to it's members "Folks, we're gonna have to let the valet go so you'll have to park your own cars" or "we'll have to cut the omelet station from the Sunday brunch". No, they will tell the members that their dues will go up X% next year which is completely in line with what most private clubs do anyway. So enough with the melodrama about losing jobs and healthcare.
Jim February 19, 2013 at 07:15 PM
Walter, I prefer not to repsond to your 'thinking cap comment' as being a smart ass isnt useful. Having served as an advisor to one club I will state that you seem to be living in a world where some beleive that just being a memeber of a private club makes you wealthy and immune from the economic realities of today. The truth is clubs saw many drop from their rolls in 2008 /09 as the banking/investment sector was severly damaged. No melodrama here, people lost their jobs and the clubs lost memebers and staff was cut. Its fact. of the operating budget....in some ways robbing from the future to cover the expenses of today because no one wants to have 'less'. This only works for so long ....so when the downturn hit, projects that would have created jobs were put on hold and cuts were made in little things like how many days a week fairways were mowed. These minor changes resulted in staff being cut and those that retained their jobs were asked to work a little more and a little more effieceintly. So these clubs will go on as you suggest becasue there are groups of people that want to be affilaited with each other. BUT, there is simply not a money tree growing either on the members property nor that of the clubs. I promise you having seen the reponse form 5 years ago, raising taxes/costs on the clubs will result in job loses. Which, I beleive is neither good for the comunity or the system.
Jim February 19, 2013 at 07:17 PM
This got cut - Today, Balancing revenues (dues) against payments is a difficult thing not only for the government. Many clubs have historically relied on initiation fees to cover part Today, Balancing revenues (dues) against payments is a difficult thing not only for the government. Many clubs have historically relied on initiation fees to cover part
Walter White February 19, 2013 at 07:22 PM
Sorry, but that's not a good enough excuse to get out of paying your fair share of property taxes. How many businesses went under over the last several years? Did they use that as a successful argument to elminate their requirement to pay property taxes? What makes you think you are different from the thousands of other struggling businesses?
Jim February 20, 2013 at 05:10 PM
Walter, Fair share huh. Heard that a lot recently. Guy in the White House uses that as a rally cry. Guess the concept of non profit doesnt resonate although you indicated that you understood business. But to your point., private clubs need to be taxed to 'pay their fair share' , as do those other horrible exempt groups like churches, veteran halls, Lions club, schools and Universities. Get em all...make them pay their fair share. OK I just disagree.

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