Judge: Homewood residents can enter country club case

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Judge: Homewood residents can enter country club case

April 01, 2021 - 21:21
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On Thursday afternoon, a group of Homewood residents won its motion to intervene as defendants in a case against the village by a land developer seeking to disconnect its property at the former site of Calumet Country Club.

After listening to arguments from attorneys for both sides, Cook County Circuit Court Judge Maureen Ward Kirby decided the five residents — Liz Varmecky, Casey Kueltzo, Danielle Nolen-Ragland, Kathy Jakubowksi and Car Notorangelo — could join the lawsuit as defendants.

Eric VanderPloeg, attorney for W&E Ventures, argued the residents’ petition was effectively too late, filed weeks after a settlement agreement was reached between village leaders and his client. In the settlement, the village said it wouldn’t contest W&E Ventures’ request to disconnect the property if the village board failed to approve zoning changes, which it did in early March.

Arguing for the residents, attorney Patrick Keating contested the lack of timeliness contended by VanderPloeg by contending the residents could not have known about the village’s intention to “not defend” the disconnection because the settlement agreement was not released to the public. The residents didn’t see the agreement until receiving it via a Freedom of Information Act request on Feb. 23, Keating said.

For this reason, Kirby agreed the residents petition to join the lawsuit was timely. 

The court then considered whether the residents had standing to join the lawsuit as defendants. VanderPloeg argued their standing as tax-paying residents wasn’t enough to meet the legal requirements of an interested party in this type of case.

In Keating’s counterargument, he referenced an Illinois Supreme Court case from 1936, the only one deemed appropriate to use as precedent in the case. 

Kirby agreed the 1936 case was “still good law,” and said the residents have a direct interest in the development project as taxpayers within the municipality. She ultimately approved the defendants’ motion to join the case as defendants. 

With respect to the judge’s decision, VanderPloeg took time to enter into the record his concerns that allowing the residents to join the case as defendants sets a dangerous precedent. 

“In my opinion, it’s a death knell for other municipal cases like this one,” he said, adding that tax-paying residents could essentially join any case against a municipality at any time.

Kirby didn’t dismiss the notion, but ruled that “no new parties” can join this case and that Keating should not raise new issues in the case, now that residents are added as defendants.

The judge reminded the parties that the case is over property disconnection and not zoning, and issues related to green space or emergency response times — items referenced in Keating’s motion to the court — would not be discussed.

In addition, Kirby also contested what she said were media reports attached to the motion filing that seemed to indicate Homewood officials and W&E Ventures were “in cahoots.”

“That’s simply not the case. That’s not what’s happened in front of the court,” Kirby said. “The parties have worked really hard; they have capably represented their clients. These have been zealous advocates for their sides, and very professional. I want everyone to know that. They have all conducted themselves with the utmost integrity.”

The next court date is a status hearing at 10:30 a.m. April 23. The hearing is open for public viewing on Zoom with ID 97725700908 and password 821555.