The Mount Prospect Park District hopes for a net monetary gain with its plan to install 75-foot-high netting on a proposed new driving range at its soon-to-be-revamped Mount Prospect Golf Course.
But neighbors near the course at 600 See Gwun Avenue fear a net loss in property values.
The Mount Prospect village board this week heard the first reading of an ordinance that would grant a zoning variation allowing the netting to exceed a 30-foot height limit currently imposed.
The park district request arrived before the board with a built-in disadvantage. The village's Planning and Zoning Commission already rejected the proposed variation unanimously. This means that when the village board votes, a supermajority, or five out of the seven board members, will be needed for it to pass.
Dave Esler, of Esler Golf Design, said the netting is a necessary safety feature for the course.
"Frankly, I would be remiss if I didn't tell you that there will be golf balls that will go over this net," he told village trustees. "As I stated earlier, we would prefer from a safety standpoint to have them even higher. But we don't want to be ridiculous and completely offend the neighbors."
Without the netting, the driving range might have to be dropped from the golf course layout.
"We think it's a critical element to have a driving range from an economic standpoint, as well as a more esoteric perception standpoint," Esler said. "This is a complete facility."
But residents say they fear the netting will be unsightly and lower property values.
"I use the golf course. I live on the golf course. My daughter's on the golf team. So I really want to see this succeed," said Dave DiPrima. "But on the same note, I need to have some aesthetic insurance, if you will, that it's not going to look (bad)."
Another resident, John Heidkamp, disputed the park district's assertion that the netting would blend into nearby trees.
"It's like having a curtain in front of your house," he said, pointing photos from similar golf ranges.
Park district Executive Director Gregory Kuhs said a new driving range would boost the golf lesson program at the course and benefit local high school golf teams.
Prospect High School girls golf Coach Jim Hamann and boys golf Coach Tom Martindale both argued in favor of the range. Without it, Hamann said, there would be no place for golfers to warm up and no opportunity to host a regional or a sectional tournament.
With the driving range, he said, the sky is the limit.
"I want to run my camps through the park district. Hundreds of kids. Boys and girls. It would be phenomenal," he said.
The matter will come back to the board for a second reading, which will give the park district a chance to present more material before trustees vote.
"For this board, I think it does just come down to the aesthetics and on some level, I suppose, the safety," Trustee Paul Hoefert said.