Both Republicans running for the Lake County Board's 15th District seat believe plans to build a golf course at the Fort Sheridan Forest Preserve should be abandoned.
Incumbent Carol Calabresa and challenger Dan Donahue say the Lake County Forest Preserve District board, which doubles as the county board, should ask the U.S. Army to dissolve a requirement for a golf course on the 250-acre site overlooking Lake Michigan.
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That requirement was part of the 1990s-era deal that led to the forest district acquiring part of what had been the Fort Sheridan military base. An 18-hole golf course that had been there was torn up in 2003 ahead of a proposed upgrade that never happened.
Calabresa and Donahue talked about Fort Sheridan's golf prospects in questionnaires for the Daily Herald.
"I would support a request to the Army to lift the golf course restriction and enable the district to have the only Lake Michigan public access for the residents' enjoyment of the ravines, prairies and woodlands (there)," Calabresa wrote.
Donahue went farther. If district officials don't negotiate an end to the golf pledge, they should give the land back to the federal government, he said.
"And in the unlikely event the federal government accepts the return, Senator (Mark) Kirk and Congressman (Robert) Dold will certainly ensure the property becomes federally protected open space," Donahue wrote.
Donahue submitted his questionnaire before Kirk suffered a stroke Sunday.
The 15th District includes Libertyville and part of Mundelein. Both candidates live in Libertyville.
Calabresa has been on the county board since 1986 and served a term as president of the forest board.
Calabresa's stance on Fort Sheridan is a change for her. When she was asked about Fort Sheridan's future during her 2010 re-election campaign, she said she hadn't made up her mind.
At the time, she was leading an advisory committee that spent a year trying to come up with golf options for Fort Sheridan. That group eventually recommended the board seek private companies to build and operate a 9-hole course, but no proposals came forward.
For Calabresa, the issue is economic.
"In this economy, we can't encumber taxpayers for anything unless it is an absolute necessity, such as health and safety issues," she wrote. "Our Fort Sheridan golf studies indicated a golf course was not financially feasible."
The lack of interest in private development of a course confirmed this, Calabresa said.
Donahue, a member of Libertyville's plan commission and zoning appeals board, is making his first bid for elected office in Lake County.
He said he'd oppose golf at Fort Sheridan even if there were offers for private development. He cited the economy and what he called an "oversupply and under demand" for golf in this area.
Asked if he was concerned about a lawsuit from residents of the adjoining Town of Fort Sheridan who have said they were promised a golf course when they bought their homes, Donahue welcomed a fight.
"In the event the property owners do prevail, legal costs and modest settlements would certainly be a fraction of the construction cost and operating deficits of a golf course," he said.
The winner of the March 20 GOP primary will face Libertyville Democrat Del Parra in November's general election.
Forest district Executive Director Tom Hahn has said he'll present board members with options at a meeting in February or March.