Activities at a once thriving summer camp on Crooked Lake are expected to resume in some fashion after voters this week approved the site's purchase by Lake Villa Township.
While questions remain regarding public access to the deteriorating 22-acre property near Lake Villa, township voters in a special session Tuesday gave the deal an enthusiastic thumbs-up.
"I think it's good. The fact that the township will take over the property just assures us a developer," can't pursue other plans, said Jack Gjeldum, a member of the Crooked Lake Improvement Committee.
Gjeldum was among about 50 township voters who, through a voice vote without objection, approved the acquisition of the former Peacock Camp.
A special meeting and voter approval is required when the township is buying or transferring property, according to Township Supervisor Dan Venturi.
In this case, the purchase of the foreclosed property from a bank not only was a long-sought amenity in the central part of the township but came at a reduced price of $600,000.
"We have enough money in the bank to close on this," Venturi said, adding that the township tax levy has remained the same the past three years.
The township a few years ago offered "just over a million dollars" for the property, but the deal fizzled, according to Venturi. An appraisal last March valued the property at $1.4 million, he said.
The property spans about 500 feet of lakefront with about eight acres of it underwater. The main building includes a living room, kitchen and fireplace, but the interior as well as an adjoining swimming pool are in disrepair.
"The inside of the building is in bad shape. (Vandals) cut the radiators out to scrap the metal," Venturi said. The structure is solid, however, and will be remodeled, officials say.
"I'm estimating probably $300,000 or $400,000 before we're done and that assumes we do a lot of the work ourselves," Venturi said
A home on the property eventually will be demolished.
Nearby residents are most interested in the potential uses of the property and the degree of lake access it will offer the public.
"For the youth camp, we're looking at partnering with the Lindenhurst Park District, not duplicating what they're doing," Venturi said. "I'm not looking at a public campground, I'm not envisioning that at all."
He said the township sees no reason to install a public boat launch, although fishing is a possibility.
"We're not trying to overpopulate the lake," Venturi told voters. "We'll work with you."
Peacock Camp for Crippled Children was established by granddaughters of Ernst Johann Lehmann, a well-to-do businessman who was influential in Lake Villa history. The free camp opened on Crooked Lake in 1949.
"I cry every time I go back there -- I can hardly talk about it. It was really a magical place," said Peggy Bogenschutz, a special education teacher from Lake Villa who, with her husband, Paul, worked there as a camp director.
The property was sold in 1999 and its use as a traditional summer camp continued for several more years.
"I'm thrilled the township is going to take it over and do something nice with it," Bogenschutz said.