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During an often heated and emotional meeting, the Village of Homewood (Ill.) board on April 13 unanimously approved a controversial ordinance that will disconnect historic, but financially troubled Calumet Country Club from the village. The move puts the 127-acre parcel of land one step closer to becoming an 800,000-square-foot logistics and trucking center.
Before the vote, Mayor Rich Hofeld ordered at least two people, who attended the meeting in person to be removed from the board chambers. He also admonished several others in the room after they interrupted village trustees and the village attorney, Chris Cummings, as they explained their position on the ordinance. Hofeld attended in person, but several trustees and village staff were on a videoconference.
“You need to sit down and not interrupt the trustees,” Hofeld said as police officers stood nearby and later told some to leave.
Citizens of Homewood, southwest of Chicago, made their case that the village should keep the country club within the village, and all nine citizens who attended urged trustees to vote against the so-called disconnection ordinance.
Several people who spoke before belong South Suburbs for Greenspace Over Concrete, an organization formed to fight the redevelopment plan.
“The Calumet Country Club represents more than 20% of the open land in Homewood,” resident David Sax said. “Handing the developer Walt Brown a disconnection, via a voluntary ordinance is doing his work for him and it’s not in the best interest of the village or its residents.”
But trustees said disconnecting the course from the village was the best and only course of action because in January the village negotiated a settlement agreement with Brown and his company, Diversified Partners/W&E Ventures, which bought the property in 2020 for $3.3 million. CEO Brown’s Scottsdale, Ariz., firm also agreed to pay $500,000 in back taxes owed by the course’s previous owners.
The trustees also pointed to an April 6 order from Cook County Circuit Court Judge Maureen Ward Kirby that allowed South Suburbs for Greenspace Over Concrete to participate in the ongoing litigation over the country club’s fate. But Ward Kirby’s decision upheld the validity of the settlement agreement and said the village’s obligations remain in effect.
“The settlement agreement is not voidable,” Ward-Kirby wrote.
Another court hearing on the lawsuit is scheduled for April 23.
According to village attorney Cummings, the settlement agreement called for the village to review and act on zoning and economic incentives for the development. In March, the board rejected the developer’s request to rezone the property, and Brown said at the time his best option was to disconnect as soon as possible from Homewood and negotiate with other nearby municipalities or Cook County to get the project moving.
Cummings told the board that the disconnection ordinance met the criteria established by the state for cases such as this.
“The village would have little to argue if this case went to trial,” Cummings said. “The village had no development plans when this lawsuit was filed.”
After listening to the citizens, the trustees said the law is on the developer’s side, even though board members said they were opposed to the warehouse and logistics center plan and they refused to rezone the land in March.
“The settlement agreement doesn’t lie,” trustee Barbara Dawkins said. “We gave this developer a full and fair process, 20 hours of testimony and cross-examination. The village is not in breach of the agreement. It’s not about considering what’s going to happen to this property if it’s a butterfly farm or a landfill.”
Only 14.3% of the truck driver population is made up of African Americans, followed by 13% Hispanic, and 7% Asian. In this episode, host Michael Freeze wonders what industry leaders are doing to increase those percentages. We talk to two trucking industry experts who have implemented their own practices that are contributing to a more diverse work community. Hear a snippet, above, and get the full program by going to RoadSigns.TTNews.com.
The board did approve a resolution calling for cooperation between Homewood and neighboring Hazel Crest concerning the future development of the country club.
Diversified Partners’ Brown told Transport Topics that now that the course will be disconnected from Homewood, he intends to talk with other nearby municipalities and local governments, including Cook County, about the trucking and logistics center, and warehouse, which he says will bring more than 1,000 jobs to the area, 25 miles southwest of Chicago.
“I think this is going to be great for the intermodal and trucking industry,” Brown said. “We just need to plan this out properly, get a lot of trees and landscaping, and do it right. We just need to plan it to where the neighbors say, ‘Wow, this worked out great’ and we’re committed to doing that.”
Brown said he’s been contacted by as many as six Fortune 500 companies about having facilities at the site, which is near two major interstates — I-80 and I-294 — and is in a fast-growing area of Chicago that’s a major transportation hub.
Calumet Country Club opened in 1901 and was designed by Donald Ross, who is considered one of the golf’s greatest course designers from 1899 until his death in 1948.
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