Lemont-Palos Park golf war escalates

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

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It’s getting a little nastier out there.

Golf may be considered a gentlemen’s game by some, but annexing land with golf courses? Well, that’s a different beast.

Shortly after Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves went on television to rip the city of Palos Park in a segment shown on Friday, the city went on the offensive.

The Friday fights started when Lemont Mayor Brian Reaves told Fox-32 that Palos Park’s annexing of 1,400 acres of unincorporated land which includes three golf courses including the jewel of the bunch -- Cog Hill – was a “land grab.’’

That came 11 days after a Lemont village board meeting in which some people in that town portrayed the City of Palos Park as “selfish and self-centered” and a “political predatory parasite” officials.

“I call this a land grab because at the end of the day, the village of Lemont had no chance to combat what’s going on,” he told the TV station.

He also accused a deal was cut between Cook County and Palos Park but added he couldn’t prove it.

“I can tell you something doesn’t smell right,” Reaves said. The village’s website calls it a “back-room deal.”

New Cook County Commissioner Sean Morrison, who has publically said he favors the annexation, called Reaves’ accusations “hogwash” and told the Chicago television station that Reaves has lost his mind.

That didn’t sit well with Palos Park Mayor John Mahoney and City Manager Rick Boehm.

Not long after the broadcast, Boehm sent out a seven-page information packet to the media about the situation from Park’s point of view.

 “Even the suggestion of a ‘land grab’ is ridiculous and utterly false,’’ Boehm said in the statement. “The properties involved in the proposed annexations – both the Forest Preserve District land and the private properties – are not the Village of Lemont’s land and are not within the Village of Lemont’s corporate limits.

“Lemont appears to be laying claim to land over which it has no control or authority. Lemont knows that the annexation of Forest Preserve District land can lead to Palos Park annexing the significant lands owned by leading area families. And these families have freely exercised their rights and made the decision to be annexed into Palos Park. The annexation of unincorporated property into a municipality is governed by state law, and the Village of Palos Park has followed these laws in pursuing the proposed annexations.’’

This controversy started in 2009 and died down for a few years. Now it’s become a full-blown fight and Palos Park officials don’t think they did anything wrong since they content that property owners sought them out. With Cog Hill, a course that has hosted PGA events, in the mix, the emotions are running high.

 “These property owners first met among themselves prior to 2009 to explore a plan to jointly seek annexation into either Palos Park or Lemont,” Boehm said in the statement. “They then asked for annexation proposals from each village.

“Both Palos Park and Lemont made proposals and after long and thoughtful consideration of each village’s proposal the property owners unanimously decided, as one landowner has stated, ‘to rule out Lemont because only Palos Park offers the real prospect of securing the use entitlements, the public utilities, the marketplace and the community identity essential to a long-term redevelopment of Cog Hill, Gleneagles, Mid Iron and Ludwig Farm to their highest and best use.’ ”

Boehm also said this was good for the people of Palos Park.

“Palos Park sees these prospective annexations as a once-in-a- lifetime opportunity to enhance the quality of life in Palos Park by annexing lands from property owners who appreciate our village’s commitment to quality development, recreational, and open spaces that Palos Park fosters.’’ he said.Palos Park sees the annexations as a way to enhance our Village, gaining lands and future residential development that will fit into the Palos Park environment that emphasizes recreation, cautious growth and green development. The annexations will also provide the Village with control over future development in significant local corridors along Bell and other roads.

It will likely be months before this gets resolved but for now tensions are running high.