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Palos Park annexes forest preserve land

Wednesday, December 16, 2015
Chicago Tribune
by Mike Nolan

Palos Park has annexed Cook County Forest Preserve District land at its western edge, giving the village the needed link to later bring another 1,400 acres within its boundaries, including the Cog Hill and Gleneagles golf courses.

Cook County commissioners in October approved Palos Park's plan to annex the larger acreage — despite appeals from Lemont officials that the golf courses and adjacent properties have for years been part of that town's long-range development plans and that annexing them would physically divide Lemont.

The Palos Park Village Council this week approved an annexation agreement with the Forest Preserve District to take 190 acres southeast of McCarthy and Bell roads.

Annexing the land doesn't give Palos Park control over the site and it can't rezone it or build on it, but the village will provide water and sewer service to a Forest Preserve District police substation there.

Palos Park needs the property to be able to annex the golf courses and other properties, including the Ludwig family farm and the Mid-Iron golf driving range. Those landowners asked the village to annex their property, and that process will begin next year by drafting formal annexation agreements, Village Manager Rick Boehm said.

"There are a number of steps the village needs to take to get that done and accomplished," Boehm said.

He said public hearings would be held before any annexation agreements are considered by the Village Council, and those agreements would detail what type of development could occur on the annexed land and establish design standards.

The property owners have said they sought to join Palos Park because having Lake Michigan water extended to their land would make it more attractive for development. Because no part of Palos Park was contiguous to those properties, the village needed the Forest Preserve District land to create that link.

Since the vote by county commissioners, Lemont representatives have attempted to meet with the landowners to try to dissuade them from going ahead with their plans, but "they wouldn't meet with us," Mayor Brian Reaves said Wednesday.

He said the Village Board will review various options to try to thwart the process, which Lemont officials have decried as a "land grab" by Palos Park. Reaves said legal action is an option but declined to discuss what other avenues Lemont might pursue because they have not been fully presented to the trustees.

Katherine Jemsek, Cog Hill's president, said her family wasn't in favor of meeting just with Lemont officials, preferring a meeting that included all the landowners and Palos Park officials.

She said agreeing to meet with Lemont representatives to discuss possible annexation "would be a conflict" because the Jemseks have committed to becoming part of Palos Park.

"We have made our decision, and we are moving forward," she said. "This is a lifetime decision, and you only make it once."

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