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Judge grants Mission Hills' request to test Red Seal land for toxins

Wednesday, June 15, 2016
Chicago Tribune
by Irv Leavitt Daily Southtown

Cook County judge ruled June 7 that Red Seal Development must allow testing for toxins on its Mission Hills site, where it plans 137 units of housing. The ruling came as a lawsuit against the project proceeded.

A Red Seal motion opposing the request had asked, if testing was granted, that the results be kept secret. Judge Rita Novak denied that request.

Other builders on former golf courses, includingWestern Springs' Timber Trails, have spent millions of dollars scraping off dirt to remove arsenic and other toxic compounds used in controlling weeds and insects on older courses, according to the IllinoisEnvironmental Protection Agency. The Mission Hills course – half of which is slated for the development – was built in 1926.

In a June 9 statement, Red Seal Vice Chairman Brian Hoffman said the site – now a golf course – is "an area where thousands of people have lived for decades without facing any adverse impact from residual chemicals used on the greens. The entire question of environmental testing is just another red herring raised by the same unit owners who are suing to protect their views of the golf course."

Hoffman's statement also said that "we look forward to our groundbreaking in the next few weeks."

Hundreds of Mission Hills residents have opposed the project, called "Provenance," saying that it would take away golf course views, cause flooding and reduce their property values.

The successful motion to compel Red Seal to go along with the testing was part of a year-old lawsuit against the developer to stop the project, which was approved by the Cook County Board in February 2015.

Karen Jump, a leader of the Mission Hills Openlands homeowners' group opposing the unincorporated Northbrook development, said June 9 that she was concerned the judge hasn't yet ruled on a request for an injunction against construction on the property, because Red Seal could then begin construction before testing was completed, once Cook County awards the firm a building permit. A Red Seal lawyer, in a May 18 court document, said the developer couldn't yet promise not to start grading before testing was done.

Novak's case management schedule shows the lawsuit not going to trial before February 2017.

"It would be irresponsible of Cook County to allow Red Seal to proceed without the case being settled," Michael Delmore, a Mission Hills homeowners association leader closely involved with the lawsuit, said.

Despite the ongoing lawsuit, the county approved a permit that allowed Red Seal to cut down hundreds of trees on the course last December, though the case had been filed months before. The county approved the electrical portion of the construction permit in April and the plumbing portion on June 8.

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