Metropolitan Water Reclamation District grants easement at Canal Shores Golf Course


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

MWRD commissioner Debra Shore speaks. The board granted an easement to the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways to construct a road at the 10th hole of the Canal Shores Golf Course.

Clare Proctor, Assistant City Editor

The Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago on Thursday approved a plan that will allow the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways to pave over part of a golf course and build an access road connected to a piece of property lining the course.

This easement will allow a public road to be built at the 10th hole of the Canal Shores Golf Course in Evanston and Wilmette. The board of commissioners granted the easement with a 5-4 vote, after delaying the vote on Nov. 1. The decision grants a 60-by-426-foot easement at the 10th hole fairway to construct a road.

Commissioner Kari Steele — who voted in favor of the easement — said at the meeting that the decision serves as an “intergovernmental request” between the MWRD and the department, which requested the easement. Denying this request, she said, would set a “dangerous precedent.”

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) told The Daily that the board’s decision to grant the easement to a “sister governmental entity” was “misguided.”

“It’s only superficially a request from a governmental entity, because it’s really to benefit a private landowner,” she said. “I disagree with the basic premises.”

Dozens of community members attended the MWRD board meeting and spoke against the easement during public comment. Some raised concerns about flooding in the area, damage to the course’s wildlife and destruction of one of the golf course’s 18 holes.

Margaret Frisbie, the executive director of the Friends of the Chicago River said in a news release that the decision goes against the MWRD’s mission of improving water quality and protecting businesses and homes from flood damage.

“This paved road through a critical ecological area on an MWRD property harms open space that provides habitat for wildlife, serves as an important community asset, and absorbs stormwater,” Frisbie said in the release.

The easement will benefit the Keefe Family Trust, which is associated with the Dick Keefe Development Corporation. The development corporation owns a plot of land next to the course and intends to use the easement to develop four homes.
Protestors have called into question State Sen. John Cullerton’s (D-Chicago) role in the easement proposal. Cullerton serves as Keefe’s attorney and has an ownership interest in the Dick Keefe Development Corporation, Larry Mages — vice president of the board of the Evanston Wilmette Golf Course Association — previously told The Daily.

The MWRD leases the land to Evanston and Wilmette, which jointly manage the golf course. Wilmette Park District board member Bryan Abbott said the MWRD decision is breaking the lease agreement.

“My personal view is that I would pursue a lawsuit,” Abbott said. “They are going through extraordinary measures to come up with a way to break our lease. I don’t think they should get away with it.”

Abbott said he anticipates that the Wilmette Park District board will discuss future actions at their Dec. 10 meeting.

Commissioner Debra Shore voted against the easement. She said it will provide disproportionate benefits to the developers and create backlash from residents.

“Why would we take action that could guarantee a lawsuit?” she said.

Revelle told The Daily she is disappointed by the decision and that the MWRD is “turning their back on their mission.” But there are many more steps that need to be taken before a road is built, she noted.

Despite voting in favor of the easement, Steele echoed this sentiment.

“This is the first step,” Steele said. “This is a local issue that should be decided locally.”

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @ceproctor23