The 36-hole property in Bensenville, Ill., disconnected from the village 15 years ago over a dispute concerning new liquor-license requirements and an amusement tax. It has since been operated by the Bensenville Park District but park officials, seeking to “correct a misstep,” now want to negotiate a new agreement and have the village annex the property. But some are concerned that agreement may involve selling up to half of White Pines’ 257 acres.
Saying that much has changed in the 15 years since White Pines Golf Club disconnected from Bensenville, Ill., local Park District officials are contemplating bringing the property back into the village, the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald reported.
But complications may arise if the Park Board decides to sell up to half of the 257-acre, 36-hole golf course to raise tens of millions of dollars to rebuild White Pines and other district facilities, the Daily Herald reported.
“I think we need to flesh things out before we jump,” Commissioner Greg Linder said during a discussion on May 16thabout the potential annexation, the Daily Herald reported. The Board then tabled the issue until June.
White Pines GC disconnected from Bensenville in 2003 after a year-long dispute between the village and Park District, the Daily Herald reported. The feud began when park officials refused to apply for a new liquor license that was considered too restrictive. The District also wanted to avoid paying the village’s amusement tax.
Park Board President Rich Johnson now says White Pines never should have disconnected, the Daily Herald reported. “We’re trying to correct a misstep and bring it back into the village,” he said.
The relationship between the village and the District has improved since the election last year of Village President Frank DeSimone, Johnson said. “We work together on a lot of things,” he told the Daily Herald.
The two elected leaders started talking last year about annexing White Pines and directed staff members to negotiate terms of a potential agreement, the Daily Herald reported.
One detail that needs to be worked out, however, is whether part of the golf course should be rezoned for residential use as part of the annexation, in response to interest from developers.
“There’s no offer on the table,” Johnson said, “but as elected officials, if we don’t look at and see what the opportunities are, we’re not doing our job.”
It would be hard to sell any land, he added, because “we’re all about open space.” Still, he said, the Board must decide what’s best for the District and its residents.
District officials say White Pines GC has more than $4 million in long-term debt and the golf operation is losing $160,000 to $200,000 a year, the Daily Herald reported.
“We basically have two golf courses competing against each other,” said Joseph Vallez, Manager of Park Operations. “So we have to maintain 36 holes, but the revenue coming in has not been adequate to meet the budget revenue projections.”
If half the land is sold, the District could make roughly $65 million, according to preliminary estimates, the Daily Herald reported. Getting that much cash would allow it to wipe out debt, create a new golf course with a new clubhouse, and improve and rebuild other aging facilities.
The District, for example, faces the possibility of having to spend roughly $600,000 to repair its pool, the Daily Herald reported.
“If we don’t manage it, it’s going to manage us at the worst time,” Vallez said.
Selling golf course land could make it possible to build a new pool without increasing property taxes, officials said. But Mary Dickson, the District’s attorney, said the Park Board would need to get Illinois law changed before it could sell property. State law doesn’t allow districts to sell more than eight acres of a golf course.
Before taking that step, Dickson said the District might want to gauge public support, possibly through an advisory referendum, And some residents already have expressed opposition, the Daily Herald reported.
Gina Mellenthin, a former park commissioner, said the property helps to alleviate flooding. “We’re going to have huge problems if we take away open space,” she said.
Still, some aspects of the proposal would benefit the District, the Daily Herald reported. White Pines, for example, would pay less for water service and a liquor license. In addition, the village has offered to give municipal sales tax and amusement tax dollars collected at the course to the District for 20 years.
Returning to the village would also allow the district to consider installing video gambling machines at the White Pines clubhouse, although that proposal would likely face opposition from neighbors, the Daily Herald reported.
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