The Army Doesn’t Want Fort Sheridan Back

Another one of the desperate arguments put forth by the tiny band of supporters of the golf course at Fort Sheridan is that, failing to build a golf course and therefore “violate” the restrictive covenant to do so, the Secretary of the Army will “take the land back.” This argument is further expanded to suggest that the Army will then build military housing on this land or a noisy factory or some other land use that we would all agree is objectionable. In other words, we will all rue the day we didn’t just accept the golf course.

So notice to everyone: the US government doesn’t want the land back.  Moreover, when Congress passed the Military Construction Appropriations Act which transferred this land from the US government to the Lake County Forest Preserve government, they stipulated that this land should be to “ensure the continued protection and enhancement of the open spaces of Fort Sheridan.” That’s the law.  So let’s put that straw man to rest.

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5 thoughts on “The Army Doesn’t Want Fort Sheridan Back

  1. Eric,

    Ed is correct. The developer did not lie about the golf course and promoted something that was jointly agreed to by all parties to the land allocation negotiation. Agreeing to it was bad public policy. But that does not negate the fact that it was agreed to and some people who had an expectation there would be a golf course are deeply disappointed and angry. They have a legitimate grievance. If they didn’t this matter would have been resolved a long time ago.

    Let’s pick up the thread there…

    First, the presence or lack of a golf course does not affect the value of the homeowner’s properties. The golf course is not what creates the value, it is the park-like open space. In fact, the homeowner market is filled with far more buyers who would value a well-managed forest preserve and the mile-long public lakefront. I am sympathetic to some homeowners disappointment. But this is NOT a pocketbook issue.

    In fact, it is arguable that the golf course would depress property value due to traffic from tournaments and heavy weekend play. These are not my opinions. I’ve researched this and have written a post about it here: http://fortsheridangolfcourseforum.wordpress.com/2010/02/07/big-property-value-lie/

    Second, and the most bitter pill to swallow, is that when bad policy is identified, public officials have a responsibility to correct it. When the agreement was made to maintain a golf course “in perpetuity”, municipal golf was a cash cow raising money for governments and spinning cash off to fund other government activities. Today it is a burden creating any number of financial headaches for municipalities. While the game may very well remain popular, people’s tastes, interests and time allocation have changed and the number of golf rounds have shrunk. This has only highlighted the error of the original agreement.

    I don’t think the greater public puts sufficient priority on golf to subsidize it. Therefore, it is necessary to correct the original error. Painful? Absolutely. Necessary? That, too.

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  2. Hi Eric,

    When I bought my house, there was no golf course at Fort Sheridan, and I did not buy from a developer. But what I can say about the original buyers is that the Lake County Forest Preserves had originally had Robert Trent Jones, an award-winning designer who did their Thunderhawk course, do a plan for Fort Sheridan — 18 holes, mind you, not the 9-hole as proposed today.
    See, for example, http://www.triblocal.com/detail/134346.html

    The LCFPD actually originally offered to pay for the Army’s golf course, then got it for $1 in a sweetheart deal.

    Sure, the Town of Fort Sheridan developer, who had no control over what happened, promoted the golf course as part of the original development. What reason would they have had NOT to do so? Lake County has all along promoted the plan for golf here…and all Lake County residents have benefitted from the home prices (and thus real estate taxes) that were set based on the golf course being here.

    I don’t see how that’s a lie from the developer anymore than it is a lie from LCFPD who spent money to design courses (three times by now) and signed on the dotted line on a deed that required them to operate a golf course in perpetuity.

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  3. Ed,
    How many of the “hundreds of supporters” are residents of Ft. Sheridan. I would be so bold as to assume that it is a majority. I would also hope to receive an honest answer to the question of whether this is over money. When you bought your house, the developer probably sold you a story that there was going to be a golf course and, as a result, you paid a premium. In order to protect that premium, you are fighting to have the rest of Lake County make good on the developer’s lies. Correct?

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  4. Dude, I just can’t follow your rant. Your comments are always welcome but your point is unclear.

    I characterize the golf course supporters as a tiny band because that is what a hundred people in a county of 700,000 is. Fort Sheridan is not your sub-division’s neighborhood park. And if any number of millions of dollars is to be spent there, it will be for the benefit of the County and not just for a tiny band.

    Many who agree with me are sympathetic to your position. I understand the disappointment. But we just can’t afford another golf course.

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  5. I love how you keep characterizing the golf course supporters as a “tiny band”. Hundreds have turned out to the last several meetings. You’ve been at the same meetings. What are you missing?

    As for the Army, I’m so glad you actually cited sources and interviews for your position.

    The point of the assertion is that the land has value and if it is mis-managed in terms of the conditions under which it was given to the Forest Preserve District for free, perhaps the Army would like to take the former airstrip and missile site back and sell it to help pay off some debt. They are in process of doing so with the parcel south of the Openlands ravine and with the Westover parcel on the west side of Fort Sheridan. I asked Highland Park once why the LCFPD doesn’t make a nature preserve out of the parcel south of the ravine — it has the same bluffs and ravine structure overlooking the lake as the former airstrip deeded to be a golf course — and the answer was that the Army wants $30 million for the land. Hmm, wonder why LCFPD isn’t using its expansionist funds to buy that bit.

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