There is No Federal Mandate for a Golf Course at Fort Sheridan

In the heated emotional discussions that surround the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve and the proposed golf course, sometimes the facts are misunderstood or simply not known. One of those facts is the circumstance that conveyed the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve property from the US Government to the Lake County Forest Preserve District. The fact is that the land transfer literally took an Act of Congress. That Act is known as the Military Construction Appropriations Act of 1996.

Some would have us actually believe that this Act of Congress dictated the existence of a golf course.  Even the City of Highland Park mistakenly  adopted a policy claiming, “that a high quality golf course should be built at the Fort Sheridan Historic District per the federally mandated covenant which governs this policy.” But there is NO federally mandated covenant that requires a golf course.

Here, then is exactly the pertinent language from the law that the US Congress passed. Here is the federal mandate:

Military Construction Appropriations Act of 1996

SEC. 125. (a) In order to ensure the continued protection and enhancement of the open spaces of Fort Sheridan, the Secretary of the Army shall convey to the Lake County Forest Preserve District, Illinois (in this section referred to as the ‘‘District’’), all right, title, and interest of the United States to a parcel of surplus real property at Fort Sheridan consisting of approximately 290 acres located north of the southerly boundary line of the historic district at the post, including improvements thereon.

(b) As consideration for the conveyance by the Secretary of the Army of the parcel of real property under subsection (a), the District shall provide maintenance and care to the remaining Fort Sheridan cemetery, pursuant to an agreement to be entered into between the District and the Secretary.

There you have it. The US Government stipulated only that the Lake County Forest Preserve take care of the cemetery. And they have. About that there is no discussion.  And the golf course? Nothing. Nada. Anybody who says otherwise is lying or disingenuous – or both.

So how did a golf course get into this picture? We’ll take a look at the facts. Next.

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7 thoughts on “There is No Federal Mandate for a Golf Course at Fort Sheridan

  1. There is no ambiguity about the restrictive covenant.

    In their divvying up the former military land, the JPC did a great job and got most everything right. However, dictating land use for a specific sport “in perpetuity” is one thing they did not get right. Perpetuity is a long time. Quite literally, forever.

    Restrictive land covenants are common. They are also changed all the time. Most thoughtful restrictive covenants run for a period of time, provide for terms of renewal and have a process for revision. Moreover, there are many instances under which a judge might invalidate some or all of the provisions of a covenant because they are impractical.

    Remarkable losses being chalked up by ALL municipalities bordering this disputed land use. The enterprise funds which support these programs are becoming impoverished and approaching bankruptcy. This is not an interpretation. Review the financial reports of the municipalities. The trend is longstanding and each year is worse.

    It would be sad if this matter moved into the legal arena. But I don’t believe it would be difficult to make a winning legal case that building and operating yet another money-losing municipal golf course is impractical thereby causing the restrictive covenant to be invalidated.

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  2. OK, it’s not a semantic hang-up.

    I guess it’s fair to say then that there is no ambiguity to accepting a legal deed that says “shall operate a golf course in perpetuity” and being legally obligated to do so?

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  3. The Highland Park City Council is defending their support of this misguided golf course by claiming there is a Federally mandated covenant.

    This is a completely inaccurate characterization. There is NO Federally mandated covenant. This is not a semantic hang-up.

    And this is not subject to interpretation. There IS a Federal Mandate to take care of the cemetery. There IS a Federal Mandate to continue the protection and enhancement of open space at Fort Sheridan. A golf course, specifically? No mandate.

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  4. Perhaps it would be more correct to say that a government-issued agreement which the LCFPD accepted as part of the land transfer indicates that a golf course “shall be operated there in perpetuity”. If you are semantically hung up on the word “mandate” I suppose that is a word subject to interpretation.

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  5. The deed restriction was prepared by the Joint Planning Commission and agreed to by the Army. It is disingenuous to call the restrictive covenant a Federal mandate. The language came from the community. It did not come from the US Govt. The US Govt (Army) only agreed to that which the JPC proposed. Period. That is not a mandate.

    There is no mention of a golf course in the Federal Act authorizing the transfer of land. The mandate is for “continued protection and enhancement of the open spaces of Fort Sheridan” and the only “consideration” is to “provide maintenance and care to the remaining Fort Sheridan cemetery.”

    Let’s deal only with the facts and stop spinning and distorting them to fit an agenda.

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