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Palos Park moves closer to Cog Hill annexation

Palos Park moved Monday one territory closer to annexing Cog Hill Golf & Country Club and three other valuable territories.

Think of a giant game of Risk – played on the map board of Palos and Lemont townships instead of the world’s six continents.

Palos Park has now legally captured without a fight the strategic land bridge that connects the village to the nearly 1,400 acres of property in Lemont Township needed for the village to annex those tracts of land this spring.

The Village Council voted unanimously Monday to approve annexing 190 acres of Cook County Forest Preserve District property along McCarthy Road, between 11900 West and Bell Road.

Annexing the land, which houses a 7,000-square foot Forest Preserve District police station and open space, places Palos Park in “direct contiguity” to four properties – Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, Gleneagles Country Club, Mid-Iron Golf Course and Ludwig Farm – whose landowners seek to be annexed into Palos Park, Mayor John Mahoney said.

The owners of Mid-Iron and Ludwig Farm have previously said that being in Palos Park will increase their land values for residential development. The council approved a consent agenda item Monday to continue the Mid-Iron rezoning to the council meeting on March 23.

The vote to annex the forest preserve site followed a seven-minute public hearing at the start of the council meeting. During the hearing, Mahoney outlined the terms of the annexation agreement: The village will install water main and sanitary sewer extensions to the land west of Will-Cook Road within 10 years of the annexation agreement or within one year of the Forest Preserve District notifying Palos Park it is proceeding with a use on the land that requires water or sanitary sewer service.

No one in the audience addressed the council during the public hearing.

Mahoney said water and sanitary sewer mains already exist on McCarthy Road, so the Forest Preserve District can connect the portion of land east of the center line of Will-Cook Road to Palos Park’s water and sanitary sewer lines upon submittal and approval of the plans for such connections. Fees related to the water and sanitary sewer connections would be waived so long as the Forest Preserve District maintains ownership of the property, Mahoney noted.

Forest Preserve District commissioners voted in October to approve an intergovernmental agreement allowing Palos Park to annex the piece of land into the village. Palos Park Commissioner Nicole Milovich-Walters praised the cooperation between them to finalize the agreement.

“I was very impressed with how the agreement came together,” Milovich-Walters said. “I thought both entities worked together so well as we have in the past and I am very excited to have this property in town.” She added that she hopes annexing the land will lead to “getting more of our residents interested in those forest preserves and spending more time in there.”

Village Commissioner James Pavlatos called the annexation agreement a “win-win” for Palos Park and the Forest Preserve District. “With Palos Park being a recreational area this just falls hand-in-hand with what we try to do,” Pavlatos said. “I think this will be a wonderful thing.”

With the Forest Preserve District opening the year-round Camp Bullfrog Lake in nearby Willow Springs this summer, Mahoney did not expect development on the annexed land in the near future.

“The Forest Preserve [District] just put a very large bond through to make some improvements to their campgrounds, including one at Camp Bullfrog Lake, so I don’t anticipate they are going to do anything in the near future on those properties,” Mahoney said after the meeting.

He noted that if a project like the campgrounds at Bullfrog Lake were to occur on the land annexed into Palos Park, water and sewer service would be necessary.

“That would be the type of development that would require those services,” Mahoney said, explaining the reasoning why the stipulation is included in the annexation agreement. “But since Camp Bullfrog Lake is so close and brand new and it’s so expensive to build a campground, I don’t think they are going to improve that property anytime soon.”

Meanwhile, Lemont village officials have approved planning permission for 34 single-family homes for a new subdivision to be known as Equestrian Meadows, paying little attention to attorneys representing Palos Park and neighboring property owners who contend the land in question is not even located in Lemont.

Attorneys call out Lemont

The issue was taken up at the Lemont Village Board meeting on Monday night, where the five trustees present voted unanimously to approve an ordinance granting preliminary plan approval and special use for the subdivision at 12150 S. Bell Road.

The vote was taken immediately after attorneys Benjamin L. Schuster, representing the village of Palos Park, and Bill Hennessy, representing the owners of the Cog Hill Golf & County Club and other nearby properties stated their objections, questioning the legality of the move.

Mayor Brian Reaves and the trustees did not directly respond to the statements made by the attorneys, but just continued on with the meeting and voted to approve the zoning for the residential development.

“Palos Park rejects this action. It is illegal, and [the property] was never properly annexed,” said Schuster. “This is evident by a simple look at a map,” which he said shows that the land is not connected to Lemont.

Schuster contended that the property remains unincorporated, and within Palos Park’s planning jurisdiction. The attorney said Palos Park will use all its legal rights to nullify the decision made on Monday.

“How can they zone something that has not been properly annexed?” wondered Palos Park Village Manager Rick Boehm when he was asked about the issue recently.

“In the event this village grants any or all of the zoning relief sought by the applicant in furtherance of its proposed development of the subject property, legal action will be brought against both the village and the applicant,” said Hennessy, predicting there will be an expensive legal fight ahead for Lemont. He said he would be seeking a judgment declaring that Lemont’s annexation and the zoning is illegal, according to the Illinois Annexation Statute, and a permanent injunction against the applicant’s development plans.

The property under discussion on Monday is contiguous with the Cog Hill Golf & Country Club, which is adjacent to Gleneagles Country Club, Mid-Iron Golf Course, and Ludwig Feed Store Corp., also known as Ludwig Farm. The four properties total 1,400 acres of land that Palos Park is in the process of annexing, with an eye toward developing. Taking a step closer to that plan, the Palos Park Village Board also met on Monday, and approved the annexation of a swath of Cook County Forest Preserve property that will connect that village with Cog Hill and thereby the other properties, making the annexation of the other properties possible.

The annexation issue has been causing friction between the two communities for some time, and when it came to the forefront again in August, the Lemont mayor called it “a true misappropriation of what belongs to Lemont.” But Palos Park officials have pointed out that the owners of the four properties approached Palos Park requesting annexation several years ago.

Following the vote at the Lemont meeting, Reaves told the developers that they have the village’s full support. Afterward, “I stand on the annexations that started in the 1970s. They were all legal.” The mayor said the site being discussed on Monday was annexed in 2011.

He said the proposed new development, along with more than 110 residential building permits issued by the village this year, are all good signs for Lemont.

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