| Nancy Rotering:
Having visited the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve area with numerous elementary school classes and Cub Scout groups, I am very fond and appreciative of the natural beauty and broad ecosystem that is there. It is a treasure.
However, there is a legal obligation from the deed restriction that was put in place when the Lake County Forest Preserve District received the land from the Federal government. Because the restriction was subject to a 5-party agreement on the use of the property, my understanding is that the Army is unlikely to change the deed restriction at the request of just one of the parties.
I know that members of the Forest Preserve District and the Fort Sheridan Task Force have spent years trying to come up with a fair and fiscally responsible way to resolve the land use issue. The hybrid golf course appears to be a compromise which will meet the obligations of the deed restriction while maximizing the amount of open land available.
In approaching this issue, I take into account what I have observed at meetings I have attended regarding the golf course, conversations I have had with Highland Park residents, the plethora of written comments that were submitted after the Open House in the latter part of the summer, my review of financial and legal documents, on-line and print news stories, and on-line blogs. I can say with certainty that there is no consensus from our community about what should happen with regard to the development of a golf course at Fort Sheridan, other than that I think an 18-hole course is by and large not supported, and is not a financially sound option.
The residents of Highland Park who bought homes in the Town of Fort Sheridan, knowing about the deed restriction in the transfer agreement of the land from the Army to the Forest Preserve District and fully expecting a golf course to be built there, have substantial equities on their side, particularly in light of the fact that the County got the land for nothing, despite offering to purchase it for $10 million during the initial base shutdown negotiations. On the other hand, the residents of Highland Park who want the land kept open for walking, bird watching, etc. correctly note that the property is unique and not replicable anywhere else.
I was thus eager to see if a plan could be worked out to balance these competing interests. I believe the current 9-hole proposal represents a fair compromise between the 18-hole course purchasers think they were promised and cost and environmental considerations. Therefore, I would not work at this time to reverse the Council’s vote in support of the development of a golf course at Fort Sheridan.
This said, I do not believe a 3rd course in the area is necessary. If Lake County takes this course on, we have the flexibility to close one of the Highland Park courses (presumably the Highland Park Country Club) and make better use of that property for the benefit of Highland Park taxpayers. They, not the residents of Lake County as a whole, are my constituency.
As I do not see there being 3 golf courses in Highland Park in the long term, I am not concerned that a Lake County golf course will threaten the 2 existing golf courses in Highland Park.
As far as next steps are concerned, it makes sense to put the project out to bid with a RFP to see if there is a private firm that would build and operate the course.
I will conclude by saying that at the time the Council passed the Resolution in support of the development of a golf course, there was no community consensus against the course, and a firm belief that the principle of honoring people’s reasonable expectations of what was legally required of the County should not be lightly cast aside. Absent a clear demonstration of a consensus among our constituents, I believe our Resolution was appropriate and should stand.