CHICAGO (CBS) — A story on the North Shore that some say pits the public’s interest against money and clout.
A plan to build a road right through a golf course gets the go-ahead. A road that benefits one land owner.
Canal Shores is a volunteer-run public golf course that snakes through Evanston and Wilmette, right along the North Shore Channel.
Residents there said the Water Reclamation District is giving the green light to putting a road through that property. To paving a little bit of paradise, all to benefit at tax payers’ expense one property owner.
The debate was teed up years ago, when the family of Joseph Keefe bought an undeveloped, one-acre land-locked property, just north of the Canal Shores Golf Course.
“We’re asking what virtually every other home owner in Wilmette has, which is access to their home,” Keefe said.
But to get it, Keefe wants to build a 426-foot road right through the tenth hole at Canal Shores.
“Canal Shores will be damaged by the loss of a golf hole. There are no 17-hole golf courses out there,” said Karl Leinberger of Canal Shores Golf Course.
And the plan was opposed by a parade of speakers before the Water Reclamation District.
“Wilmette and Evanston city officials don’t want this. The board and membership of Canal Shores don’t want this. The neighbors don’t want this. Only the politically-connected property-owner seeking the use of open space wants this,” said John Quail of Friends of the Chicago River.
And what is Joseph Keefe’s political connection? His attorney, Illinois State Senate President John Cullerton.
“He’s a talented lawyer and we’re happy to have him participate,” Keefe said.
But some smelled the strong scent of clout.
“What Keith needed was a way to override the will of the people. He needed clout. So he brought in in one of the most powerful political figures in the state of Illinois, who now has a financial interest in Keefe Development,” said golf publicist Barry Cronin.
That’s right. John Cullerton is a business partner with Joseph Keefe. The water board voted 5-to-4 to grant the easement at the request of the Cook County Highway Department.
Supporters said the final decision shouldn’t be theirs.
“That should be decided locally,” said MWRD Commissioner Kari Steele. “The village of Wilmette should decide if a road should be built in the village of Wilmette.”
But this isn’t the end of the story.
Host of permits must be granted before the road could be built. And lawsuits could be on the way as well.