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EDITORIAL: Wilmette needs its golf course and open space more than a few more houses

Site of the disputed project to build homes near the North Shore Channel. | Google Satellite View

Site of the disputed project to build homes near the North Shore Channel. | Google Satellite View

Consider this excellent example of a local government that’s not working for you.

If a plan green-lighted by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District last week becomes reality, taxpayers will pony up hundreds of thousands of dollars, well-used open space will be degraded, part of a popular public golf course will be paved over, natural habitat will disappear, and flooding and sewage-overflow problems will get worse.

All so one landowner can build as few as two houses on 1.1 acres.


The land in question is near the Wilmette-Evanston border. The owner wants the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways to build a public road across part of the Canal Shores Golf Course to provide access to the land, which now has no road access.

On Thursday, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District, which owns the land, voted 5-4 to authorize an easement for the road. The vote reversed a unanimous decision by the MWRD board last year to reject the plan. Three of the yes votes were by commissioners whose terms are about to expire.

When the family of Joseph Keefe bought the land in the 1980s, they knew perfectly well that it was landlocked, and that the golf course was already there.

Why, then, is the MWRD so keen to destroy public amenities and stick taxpayers with a hefty bill just to help the Keefes?

We have yet to hear a plausible answer.

Critics of the plan say it was pushed through because Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is Keefe’s lawyer and has an ownership interest in Dick Keefe Development Corp., which has been in court for years seeking approval for the project. (A Cullerton spokesman didn’t return a phone call Friday seeking comment.)

Now it appears the dispute is headed to court, which will cost the taxpayers, too. The suburbs of Wilmette and Evanston, as well as the Wilmette Park District, are not happy about the plan.

The best solution might be for the MWRD to buy the 1.1-acre site, which is just west of the North Shore Channel, as part of its program to mitigate flooding. In the long run, that could save taxpayers money while preserving open space in an area that has too little.

Who’s the MWRD working for? In this case, clearly not you.

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