Homewood residents offer ideas, urge village to fight redevelopment project

Editor's note: This is the second story in a series exploring the proposed redevelopment of Calumet Country Club. 

From the perspective of Homewood officials and residents at a special board of trustees meeting Thursday, July 18, the proposed redevelopment of Calumet Country Club appears to be a doubly bad deal: a big loss and a bad gain.

The loss would be a historic country club and nearly 130 acres of open land, almost all grass, mature trees and ponds. Homewood officials report the developer, Diversified Partners CRE, plans to scrap the golf course, club house and other buildings as part of the project.

The gain would be a fulfillment center, but it comes with a significant increase in truck traffic, noise, pollution, flooding and the expected decrease of property values that likely would follow.

Of the 20 or more residents who spoke at the meeting, none supported the redevelopment plan.

Robin Skulski, a lifelong Homewood resident, seemed to capture the mood of the residents with an offer to help in resisting the project.

"We need you to help us through this," she said to the board. "Don't make this your legacy. Whatever we need to do, we are here to help."

Claude Gendreau, an environmentalist and owner of La Banque Hotel and Ravisloe Country Club in Homewood, earned applause for making a suggestion that he has some experience with. 

Buy it.

"I think it might be the most important issue that this board is going to face in the 10-year period and maybe beyond," he said. "There's 20,000 people in Homewood. All together, we can afford to buy this country club."

Gendreau purchased Ravisloe Country Club in 2008 to rescue it from being redeveloped. He opened the course to the public and invested in improving the course and clubhouse, at 18231 Park Ave. in Homewood.

CCC Investors LLC, a group of country club equity members, owns the course and is working with Diversified Partners on the redevelopment. The LLC has petitioned Cook County Circuit Court to disconnect 116 acres of its property from the village. If the petition is granted, Homewood would lose all control over the redevelopment project. If the petition is denied, Homewood retains influence on the site. The village would have full control over the property's use if it owned the more than 100 acres.

Village Attorney Chris Cummings said the village would have to ask voters for permission to borrow enough money to purchase the property. He said the village has not seen the contract between CCC Investors LLC and Diversity Partners CRE, so the sale price is not known, but the developer mentioned $5 million during one meeting with the village.

One equity member of the club addressed the meeting. Gary Van Sipma, a long-time club member and Homewood businessman, said the members argued for keeping the property as a golf course, even though other uses would make more money.

He said the issue has some urgency, because if the course is not maintained properly through next spring it could be lost as a viable course.

Other suggestions from residents included: 
  • Use the court system to extend the time it takes to begin the project and hope the developer loses interest.
  • Seek assistance from organizations that help communities fend off unwanted development, including nature conservancy groups.
  • Consider using the village's power of eminent domain to take the property.
  • Consider seeking historic landmark status for the property.
  • Use the flash mob approach and have large numbers of residents join the club to exert influence.
  • Seek the support of the golfing world, which likely would be opposed to the destruction of the historic course.
 
Village officials said the various options will be explored.

Questions residents had included:
  • What are the environmental impacts? Hofeld said because no formal proposal came forward, no environmental impact studies have been commissioned.
  • Has the developer asked for tax incentives? Hofeld said the company did not make a request for tax relief but did ask that a tax increment financing district be formed.
  • What will the effects be to property values? Hofeld said there is no formal assessment but generally such developments can have a detrimental impact on nearby property values.
  • Is the village prepared to argue against the petition to disconnect the property from the village boundaries? Cummings said defending against the petition will be very challenging, but he did not rule out arguing the case.
  • What impact will this development have on flooding? Homewood Public Works Director John Schaefer said the development will have to comply with village and/or Metropolitan Water Reclamation District regulations.
  • Will the village continue to negotiate with the owners and developer? Hofeld said after several months of talks, he believes the developer is set on pursuing the fulfillment center plan.
  • Can the Village set truck weight limits? Hofeld noted that Dixie Highway and 175th Street, which border the property, are both under the jurisdiction of the Illinois Department of Transportation, so the village has no authority to change the weight limits.

 

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