A DuPage County Forest Preserve commissioner says it might be time for the district to abandon its 12-year legal fight to forcibly acquire a golf course in northwest Naperville.
The district's push to buy Country Lakes Country Club suffered a setback this week when the Illinois Supreme Court ruled that the $10.7 million sale price set by a jury four years ago isn't valid because it was based on a 1999 appraisal. The supreme court determined the price of the 204-acre parcel south of Diehl Road and west of Route 59 should be based on its current value.
Attorneys for Country Lakes' owner Robert Krilich Sr. say they believe the value of the golf course is at least $20 million. Now forest preserve commissioners must decide whether the district still wants to buy the property. If the district abandons its effort to acquire the land, it would be legally required to pay all of Krilich's legal fees for the past 12 years -- nearly $1 million.
Still, forest preserve Commissioner Michael Formento said Friday it might make sense for the district to cut its loses.
"All we've done is racked up legal expenses on our side," Formento said. "It would seem to me that more litigation is probably something I'm not interested in, particularly if we did a new appraisal and it came in at that $20 million number."
Formento noted the forest preserve would get back the $10.7 million it set aside after the jury's 2007 verdict. The district got that money as part of a $75 million referendum voters approved in 1997 so it could buy land.
Formento said the forest preserve could use the money to buy land "more important than golf courses."
When the condemnation proceedings started in 1999, one of the district's long-term goals was to own a course in every corner of the county.
Commissioner Roger Kotecki says other reasons the forest preserve wanted the land include stormwater retention and preserving open space in the southwest corner of the county.
"Those reasons were good reasons then, and frankly, they're all still good reasons today," Kotecki said.
Kotecki questioned whether another trial in 2012 or 2013 would result in a jury finding that Country Lakes' value has significantly increased.
"The market for real estate is depressed," he said. "There would be a good chance we get it for less than $10.7 million."
Kotecki said the district might have to get a new appraisal of the property "just to make an intelligent decision."
If Krilich's attorneys are right and the land is worth more than $10.7 million, Kotecki said the district could borrow money or dip into landfill reserves to make up the difference.
"We could raise the money if we decide it's worth that much," he said.
Commissioner Linda Painter said the forest preserve board may need a closed-door discussion before deciding how to proceed. "There's going to be a lot of decision-making that needs to happen," she said.