HIGHLAND PARK — As the City of Highland Park and the Park District of Highland Park move closer to a deal on the future of the Highland Park Country Club some key decisions remain.
The Highland Park City Council laid out its position on the sale of parts of the property to the park district as well as the termination of the lease and intergovernmental agreement governing the property during a Committee of the Whole meeting December 14 at City Hall.
While there is a general agreement between the city and park district on the price and other terms, questions remain about golf in 2018, operation of the banquet facility at the country club and ownership of holes surrounding the Legacy Club residential development.
Both Highland Park City Manager Ghida Neukirch and Brian Kaplan, president of the Board of Commissioners of the Park District of Highland Park, said they hope the transaction can be completed by the end of the year. Kaplan attended the meeting in an unofficial capacity.
The council will vote on the final agreements at 7:30 p.m. December 11 at City Hall.
The park district will vote on the outstanding issues at 6 p.m. December 14 at the West Ridge Center.
Eventually, Kaplan said, the park district plans to turn the golf course land into passive open space with walking trails similar to the Chicago Botanic Garden or Independence Grove in Lake County.
Park District, City Agree on Most Points
The city and park district appear in agreement the current lease by which the park district operates the country club will be terminated and the park district will purchase the golf course property with the exception of the land containing the fourth, fifth and sixth holes for $500,000.
Under the terms set forth in Neukirch’s presentation, the city will retain the clubhouse with its banquet facilities and there will be a new agreement between the parties to govern any remaining issues.
One of those issues is whether golf will be played at the country club in 2018. Mayor Nancy Rotering said the council’s position is the city and park district will each bear half the projected loss not to exceed $75,000 each.
Kemper Golf, which has managed the course for both the city and the park district over the last few years, will continue to operate the links and give the city monthly financial reports. Should the loss exceed $150,000, Rotering said in a November 17 DailyNorthShore story the golf season will end early.
Kaplan said unless there is a certain agreement to limit the negative cash flow at $75,000 for the park district, he is not sure golf will be played there in 2018.
“Golf will continue only if we can cap the losses,” said Kaplan. “If we have to wait 30 days (for a report) the loss can grow exponentially.”
Park District To Operate Banquet Facility
The outline contained in Neukirch’s presentation suggested the park district will operate the banquet facility in 2018 and 2019. Park District Executive Director Liza McElroy said the board will be looking for an operator and will not take on that responsibility itself.
“We’ve been doing it the last two years,” said McElroy.
The city’s proposal also offers the Legacy Club a right of first refusal to accept a conveyance of the golf course land containing the fourth, fifth and sixth holes to maintain it at as it sees fit. Both Kaplan and Richard Cash, speaking for the Legacy homeowners’ association, said they do not want the property. Neukirch said there will be a meeting in the near future to discuss differences.
Both the city and the park district are in agreement they will work together on flood mitigation efforts already underway for the property.
As soon as the park district gains control over the bulk of the golf course, a planning process will begin to determine exactly what kind of passive park use will be there, Kaplan said DNS story.
“We’ll probably have a (resident task force) to work with park district staff and employees to develop a plan like we did with Rosewood Beach,” Kaplan said at the time. He said there will be open meetings where individuals can offer their ideas.
Click here for a more detailed look at the park district’s plans for the property.
Click here to learn more about the financial condition of the golf operation.
Click here to learn more about the discussions between the city and the park district.