An Illinois Supreme Court ruling Thursday could force DuPage County Forest Preserve officials to pay double the price for a Naperville golf course they've been trying to forcibly acquire for 12 years.
Four years ago, a DuPage jury awarded Country Lakes Country Club to the forest preserve in a condemnation suit against owner Robert Krilich Sr. But the $10.7 million sale of the 204-acre parcel never happened because Krilich appealed the decision.
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In its ruling, the supreme court said the state law used to determine the value of the condemned land is unconstitutional.
State law requires condemned property to be valued based upon the date that a governmental entity files its eminent domain complaint. Unless Thursday's decision is overturned, the ruling determined a property owner is entitled to be paid the value of the land at or around the date of trial.
In the case of Country Lakes, the value of the property likely will be based upon 2012 estimates -- not estimates from when the condemnation proceedings started in 1999. Another jury in DuPage would have to determine the latest value after a new trial.
James Wagner, Krilich's attorney, said he believes the current value of the golf course is "$20 million or more."
Even if the forest preserve abandons its effort to acquire the land, it will have to pay a price. Wagner said the forest preserve would be required by law to pay all of Krilich's legal fees for the past 12 years -- nearly $1 million. "They could not get any land and have to pay our fees," Wagner said. "The other option is to retry the case and potentially pay significantly more money for the land."
But the forest preserve would get back the $10.7 million it set aside at the DuPage treasurer's office after the jury's 2007 verdict.
Forest preserve spokesman Bill Weidner said the board of commissioners must discuss the supreme court ruling before deciding how to proceed.
"This is a matter that the board will likely address at its next meeting, since this is a land acquisition issue," he said.
When the condemnation proceedings started 12 years ago, one of the district's long-term goals was to own a course in every corner of the county.
During his re-election campaign last year, forest preserve President Dewey Pierotti said the only reason the district wants the land now is for stormwater retention. He said he would support shutting down the golfing operation at Country Lakes, razing the existing clubhouse and installing nature trails.
Wagner said he's uncertain whether his client is more interested in keeping the golf course or getting more money for it.
"The ball is really in the forest preserves' court to determine what they want to do," Wagner said. "We're going to have to react to that."
In the meantime, Krilich is going to continue operating the golf course "until we find out otherwise," Wagner said.