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Commissioner's property now on track for Elgin approval

Wednesday, November 26, 2008
Daily Herald
by Rob Olmstead

A development proposed by a Cook County Commissioner and his family is now on track for approval by the Elgin City Council after the family agreed to reduce the number of homes and potentially provide a 3- to 4-acre park.

Tim Schneider, his siblings and his mother own Rolling Knolls Country Club in unincorporated Cook County between Bode and Irving Park Roads near the east side of Elgin. The family has been trying to develop nine holes of the 18-hole golf course into 150 units of mixed-use housing while keeping the remaining holes operating as a nine-hole golf course.

While Elgin planners were originally favorable to the idea, the Elgin zoning board wasn't keen on the idea and wanted changes. Now, Schneider says, the plan would scale back to 132 units.

There is some confusion as to whether the city wants the golf course to stay at all. City spokeswoman Sue Olafson said planners weren't interested in keeping the golf course since the area already has many courses. They were more interested in using part of the remaining golf-course area for a park or open space, she said.

Schneider said he thought the city just wanted a guarantee that if the family ever stopped operating the 9-hole course, a park would then be built on the land.

What exactly the city wants will likely be clarified Wednesday, Dec. 3, at 7 p.m. when the city council meets to consider the new proposal and potentially vote on it.

Randy Reopelle, the city's Parks and Recreation director said he's pushing for a park on the west side of the development that would have playlots, paths, large open areas for soccer games and maybe a basketball or tennis court.

But that park wouldn't consume all the remaining golf course land, still leaving the issue of what happens to that land, and the sticky issue of whether it could be purchased by the Cook County Forest Preserve, which Schneider sits on.

Schneider said when he became aware the county was interested in the land, he immediately recused himself from the issue and had his brother take up negotiations. He also asked the county board of ethics to give him an opinion and direction on the matter.

Chairman John J. Pikarski did so on Oct. 22, and concluded that selling the land to the county would be a violation of ethics for Schneider and his family since Schneider has a financial interest in the land.

"However, Section 2.10(a) also provides an exception to this restriction. It states that compensation for property taken pursuant to the District's eminent domain power shall not constitute a financial interest within the meaning of this section," Pikarski said.

That means there still could be a legal avenue for the county to acquire the land, and pay the Schneider family for it.

Schneider says he has no idea if that's what the county intends to do, since he has completely avoided discussing the issue with anyone in county government and instead directs them to contact his brother, Tom Schneider.

"The board thanks you for your inquiry and commends you for your conscientiousness in seeking to uphold the guiding principles of the Ethics Ordinance," Pikarski wrote.

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