Lawsuit settlement would keep former country club property in Homewood

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Lawsuit settlement would keep former country club property in Homewood

January 24, 2021 - 20:41

A settlement in the two-year dispute over the future of the former Calumet Country Club in Homewood is on the agenda for the  Homewood Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday, Jan. 26. 

If approved, the agreement will settle a lawsuit filed by the new owner of the former Calumet Country Club, who sought to disconnect the property from the village. 

The future of the property at 2136 175th St., has been a matter of dispute since early 2019 when developer Walt Brown, whose company, Diversified Partners, was in the process of purchasing the property, presented Homewood with a series of redevelopment proposals.

Mayor Richard Hofeld said at the time that village officials were excited about some of the ideas, which included retail, entertainment and senior living projects. However, Brown soon told the village those proposals proved unmarketable, and he turned to more industrial uses for the historic country club property. 

When village officials rejected a proposal for a fulfillment center that they feared would generate a significant increase in truck traffic, noise and pollution near Governors Park, a residential area adjacent to the country club, Diversified Partners sued in Cook County Circuit Court to disconnect the property from the village.

The village issued a statement Thursday, Jan. 21, noting that the proposed settlement agreement was negotiated in order to avoid a trial that Homewood was not likely to win. 

During a public meeting on the issue in 2019, Village Attorney Chris Cummings said state law strongly favors property owners over municipalities in such cases. 

Hofeld and trustees vowed to fight the disconnection as long as they could because if the suit was successful, Brown’s company could have requested that Hazel Crest annex the property, leaving Homewood with no say in its use.

In the statement dated Jan. 21, village officials said, “The property owner has said he will develop a distribution/fulfillment center whether the property is in Homewood or Hazel Crest. While this use is not preferred, Homewood has no good options other than to consider settling the lawsuit if it wishes to keep the property in Homewood and maintain some control over the development.”

The suit was scheduled to go to trial on March 5, which increased the urgency of coming to some agreement.

If the deal is finalized, Brown’s company will suspend the lawsuit, and if certain conditions are met by May 12, will dismiss the suit. That will keep the property in Homewood, which will give the village oversight over any new development there. 

Homewood will have the authority to impose some restrictions and require measures that can mitigate the negative impact on the adjacent residential neighborhood. For example, one proposal for the property would have included a rock crushing plant. That’s a use Homewood could prohibit under the agreement. The agreement also mentions limits on truck container stacking, building height, setbacks and protective berms. 

In return, the village will provide financial incentives comparable to what it typically offers large business projects, including development of a tax increment financing district and support for a Cook County Class 8 property tax designation. 

The village will agree to provide a $1 million advance on TIF district revenues to the developer. The village general fund would be reimbursed that amount after the TIF district has funds to disburse.

There has been opposition to the proposed development from Homewood residents, especially those who live in the Governors Park neighborhood, which is just across 175th Street from the property. 

During two public meetings on the issue in 2019, residents overwhelmingly expressed regret at the loss of an historic golf course and opposed a use that was expected to generate as many as 300 truck visits per day.

The village explored the possibility of buying the property, and the board approved an offer of $3.2 million, but Cummings said Diversified Partners asked for $17.5 million.

The former country club’s golf course was designed by famed course designer Donald Ross. 

It was built in 1917 when the club, founded in 1901, moved to Homewood.

In other business, the board will consider

  • A raffle license request from Foundation 153.
  • A liquor license request from the Saucy Crab restaurant. 
  • A one-year collective bargaining agreement with the Metropolitan Alliance of Police, Chapter 621.
  • An encroachment agreement with CSX Railroad, part of the village's new water source project.
  • A resolution appropriating $565,000 from the Motor Fuel Tax fund for the street resurfacing program.
  • A special use permit for Goddess Evolving Mind and Body Studio at 2023 Ridge Road.
  • A parking variance request from Seafood Basket restaurant at 17943 S. Halsted St.

The board will meet at 7 p.m. The meeting will be conducted remotely via video conferencing application Zoom. The public is invited to monitor the meeting by web browers at Click on "join a meeting" from menu at top right of page.

The meeting ID is 961 6038 1330, and the password is 292 310. Enter an email address.

Alternatively, residents can listen in by phone by dialing 312-626-6799. 

Members of the public may comment on agenda items or other subjects related to village business by email to [email protected] or by placing written comments in the drop box outside village hall, 2020 Chestnut Road. Comments received by 3 p.m. on Tuesday will be read into the record of the meeting.

Corrections: The deadline for filing questions or comments originally was incorrect. Village officials are asking residents to file comments by 3 p.m. Tuesday, an hour earlier than usual. Also, this story originally identified the developer as Diversified Partners CRE. The name should be Diversified Partners.