Proposed Fort Sheridan Golf Course Adds to Highland Park’s Losses

I addressed the Highland Park City Council regarding the $604,000 reduction in net assets resulting from losses at the city-owned Highland Park Country Club which includes its golf operations. Because it is losing so much money and has been for years, it doesn’t seem right to also be encouraging the development of a competing golf course operating at Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve. Yet that is exactly the position of the City based on a very strongly worded policy adopted about a year ago. A golf consultant has stated that the proposed Fort Sheridan course will cannibalize 5% to 10% of the rounds of golf from the City-operated course.

The reason for my City Council appearance was the adoption of the 2009 Annual Comprehensive Financial Report at the June 28, 2010 meeting. What I encountered was a buzz saw of defensiveness and back pedaling. It was not a pretty sight and I have it here to share with you.

I arrived at the City Council meeting prepared to deliver a short 3 minute presentation. But even this was still too long for Mayor Belsky who interrupted me in about a minute and a half. The mayor claimed incorrectly I was misinterpreting the numbers on the statement.  Other council people chimed in attempting to explain away this incredible and ongoing financial loss even to the point of denying they were supporting the Fort Sheridan golf course which they have already voted to support.

While I can explain what happened but I encourage you to take 8 minutes and watch it yourself. In the end, the facts remain: the City of Highland Park and the Park District of Highland Park have lost millions of dollars on their golf operations. The City has no business encouraging the development of yet another municipal golf course in a saturated golf market amidst declining demand.  What is there not to get?

Watch the video:

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4 thoughts on “Proposed Fort Sheridan Golf Course Adds to Highland Park’s Losses

  1. As a resident of Lake County, like you, we are parties to the deed restriction. Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve is not a neighborhood park of the Town of Fort Sheridan subdivision any more than Lake Michigan is your private lake. Homeowners in your area have no special standing on this matter. Welcome to Lake County.

    We are not making any threats. We are doing the due diligence required to assist in the modification of the deed. It’s done all the time and there is plenty of case law regarding deed amendment.

    I applaud government that recognizes when the facts change the policies have to be revisited. I know this can be disappointing to some. But it is better than saddling the entire County with a tax burden “in perpetuity”

    The TofFS homeowners ought to come up with a plan that would shield the LCFP from financial exposure. Given how much value you feel a proposed golf course adds to your home values, I’m confident that homeowners would embrace pledging a portion of their home value or other security for a line of credit to protect other County residents from financial exposure.

    Start thinking creatively. It is more productive than attacking me personally.

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  2. The deed restriction? You are a party to that exactly how? Hard not to get personal in responding to a threat like that. You don’t live in the Fort, you represent a special interest group (thru your wife’s position in Audubon), you were not part of the JPC ever, you were not part of the base shutdown process. So putting aside that taxpayer dollars were previously spent (2008) on looking at getting out of the deed restriction, how would you bring that into consideration versus “intent” when LCFPD has said all along they would operate a course at that site, and have commissioned not one, not two, but three different golf course designers to plan it over the last 15 years.

    You could do a lot more good for the community and your specisl interests by taking one of the now-vacant slots on the Park District of Highland Park board. Much closer to home and plenty of lakefront property at Morraine, Central, etc.

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  3. Let me be very clear about this: I have done no analysis whatsoever. Neither worst case or best case. What I have done is report the audited financial information published by our municipal governments and the consultants they hire. Evidently you don’t like the message so you choose to shoot the messenger. You resent that I give transparency to information you would prefer were concealed.

    Nor did I create the rules and laws surrounding golf operations and the enterprise funds which support them. Golf is intended to be a self-sustaining business activity. Parking lots and toilets are not. These are not opinions. This is the way these facilities are operated.

    If you don’t like this, work to change the law. I know I am. Starting with the deed.

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  4. Should, for whatever reason, it come to pass that no golf course is constructed at Fort Sheridan and instead Lake County Forest Preserves start considering other potential land uses, we will all remember that your entire objection to the golf course is apparently based on a worst case analysis that it could lose money.

    If they dare to consider constructing another recreational facility, like a nature center, or even a real parking lot and toilets, I just hope they can cover their debt service. Right?

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