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updated: 3/1/2011 5:19 PM

Bartlett Park District to discuss Villa Olivia referendum

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A Sept. 22 forum aims to inform voters about the $18 million bond issue to give the Bartlett Park District money to purchase Villa Olivia and renovate the aquatic center.

The park district will have the plan's architects on hand from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. on that Wednesday at the Bartlett Community Center Oak Room at 700 S. Bartlett Road.

They're dubbing the informal forum a "public input meeting," giving voters a chance to ask questions and provide input regarding the purchase of the Villa Olivia country club and the renovation plans for the Bartlett Aquatic Center.

If voters approve the move in a referendum on Nov. 2, it will increase their property taxes and allow the park district to buy $18 million in Build America bonds from the federal government. The tax hike would last 20 years, and park district officials said a homeowner with a home worth $250,000 would see an increase of $35 a year, or $3 per month.

Park district officials stress the referendum would keep the Villa Olivia land at 1401 W. Lake St. free from development. There have been several plans to build homes over the 138-acre plot, but neighbors said they'd prefer to keep the land as open space.

There's been a lengthy legal battle involving the village of Bartlett and the owners of Villa Olivia, the Corrado family, over the right to develop the land. The land comes with protective covenants that prohibit any further development until 2022. The park district vows to keep the land open if they get the money to buy the country club. Of the money, $5.9 million would go toward purchasing Villa Olivia, which was built in the early 1900s.

Villa Olivia includes a ski hill, an 18-hole golf course and a banquet hall. About $6.2 million from the referendum would go to renovate the country club, which the park district would own and operate. Park district officials estimate the country club would bring in $200,000 to $300,000 in annual profits. Park district officials reason the lower interest rates on the Build America bonds make it ideal to go forward with the plan.

The park district would also use money to renovate the aquatic center at 620 W. Stearns Road. Built in 1992, it's in need of new equipment and piping. Residents cited improvements to the aquatic center as the No. 1 priority for the park district in a recent survey. Bartlett Park District officials said residents are inclined to use more modern water parks in neighboring park districts. They want to retain residents and encourage them to use facilities within the district.