Committee Double Bogeys on Golf Course Decision
Unimplementable option and lack of consensus hallmarks of 2 year deliberation. Three vote no, one holds out for championship golf course and six support a hybrid golf course with financial constraints. This bird has no wings.
Like everything associated with the proposed Fort Sheridan golf course, if you’re looking for a one line answer and clear resolution of this complex issue, you are not going to find it. But here’s one version of what happened and a little analysis.
At their final meeting, committee members were given the choice to endorse – or not – one golf course option known as Option 2B. As one committee member noted, a camel is a horse designed by a committee. And the hybrid golf and public open space option before the committee was most certainly a compromise which made almost no one happy. But since politics is compromise, even when the outcome is nonsense, option 2B is what was on the table.
There was no actual vote. Rather, each committee member was asked to express their preference and here is how it stacked up. Six people opted to endorse option 2b.
Two Three people said no to option 2b and one person stuck to his desire for an 18-hole golf course. But their decisions were loaded with significant nuance and caveats.
The nuance and caveats involved three methods to fund this option. Two of the options were based on using a combination of available budget and taking a loan which would have a debt service of about $684,000/year. Since the course was projected to have a small operating profit of about $20,000, this would leave a deficit of about $650,000+ which would come from, well, you and me. This did not sit well.
The third option was to issue a Request for Proposal to golf management and construction companies for construction, financing and operations. In essence, privatize the operation. YES! The proponents of option 2b decided, let’s issue an RFP.
The end. Well, not quite.
The golf business hasn’t been doing so hot lately. Many wishfully think golf is merely a victim of a tough economy. But it remains to be seen whether there is a private entity who will take the bait and invest private capital in what consistently is proven to be a money losing operation. Even in the affluent north shore, all of the neighboring municipal golf courses are losing money and have been for years. And the private courses aren’t doing so well either. Then there is the question of what the Lake County Forest Preserve board thinks. Are they prepared to surrender this magnificent property to a private company? And what would be the terms of this deal? Many issues, too long to explore here, remain unresolved.
But here is how politics works. The supporters of this bad idea are Highland Park and Highwood elected officials who feel some obligation to the vocal minority in the Town of Fort Sheridan subdivision. By supporting the golf course, they feel they have met their commitment to these folks. And by washing their hands of the financial performance of this misbegotten option, they can continue to assert their concern for fiscal integrity.
For all practical purposes the golf course option is D.O.A. Sometime in 2011, the Forest Board will take up this issue. While the outcome can’t be certainly predicted, chances are the issue will die there. If it doesn’t, terms will be defined and an RFP will be issued for an operator/developer to build and manage the course. Stranger things have happened, but I suspect that the double whammy of gaining Forest Board approval and finding a developer will be the final nails in the coffin of this sordid affair. And that will be the end of the golf course. I think.