Members of Evanston City Council have registered an objection to the latest attempt by a Wilmette landowner to seek an easement over part of the Canal Shores golf course to allow access to his landlocked space.
At the September 12 city council meeting, members voted 8-0 in favor of a resolution formally recording the city’s objection to a road easement request on land owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District and leased to the city.
The resolution argued that the filed application for a possible causeway would adversely affect the design of the golf course and would be inconsistent with the city’s and MWRD’s missions to preserve the open space.
The Keefe Family Trust, the owner of the property, is seeking an easement to construct a road leading north from Isabella Street across the golf course to the property, located just across the border with Evanston.
Addressing the city council at the September 12 meeting, Joseph Keefe, a representative for the family trust, said the family had reached an agreement to donate the property to the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation to be transformed into affordable housing. A HODC official confirmed on September 19 that the two were in talks.
“My efforts to gain access to our property are dedicated to that end,” he told council members. “Currently, the property is landlocked. And the bondage we seek will alleviate this condition.
In November 2018, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District Board, by a vote of 5 to 4, approved the Keefe family’s request for an easement that would allow a 426-foot road to pass from Maple Avenue to Wilmette at the property of 1 .1 acre of Keefe.
The hearing process that led to the decision was highly contentious, with nearly two dozen members of the public speaking in opposition ahead of the council’s vote.
At the Sept. 12 town council meeting, Keefe said Wilmette village employees suggested he explore moving the easement south to Isabella, working more on the matter after the town hall decision. MWRD.
He said the heritage trees along the fairway of the course would not be affected by the move, and the easement along Isabella would use space already developed.
Change can lead to the removal of oak trees
But Matt Rooney, vice-chairman of the Canal Shores board, speaking to Keefe during a citizen commentary, said Keefe is “trying to be a hero” in the change, when it’s not not the case.
“What he’s doing is getting the green out of the way of where it is right now,” which makes him go to the narrowest part of the fairway, a- he told members of the Evanston City Council.
Because of the change, “we won’t get enough sun and we’ll have to cut down trees to put it there,” he told council members. Keefe “wants us to chop down the trees for him. If it comes from the south side (on the causeway) and we have to do it, we will end up cutting down four or five large white oaks, which are ecologically the most important trees in the region.
With the previous agreement for the Maple easement, the developer would come from the north, not through Evanston, Rooney said.
“If any of these easements take place, it will be bad for the course,” he predicted. “And with the second, the one he’s asking for tonight, coming from the south (off Isabella) is worse than the first,” he told council members.
“A unique haven for birds and wildlife”: Revelle
During discussion of the matter, City Council member Eleanor Revelle, in whose 7th Ward this part of the golf course is located, echoed Rooney’s comments.
“It may sound familiar,” she told members of the proposal board, “because this is the third time a road crossing MWRD property has been proposed.”
She said as part of the first, in 2017, a road was requested that would pass through Isabella Woods, an area of undisturbed forest “with 55 mostly mature trees, a local wildlife refuge that diverts thousands of gallons Combined City Storm Drain Pipe System.
This was denied by the MWRD. Then came the 2018 request, regarding Maple.
“And now we are looking at a third road in this ecologically important area,” she said. “And it is important to say a word about the Keefe property itself. It’s not just an empty plot of land. Like Isabella Woods, the Keefe property contains remnants of swamp oak forests that provide a unique refuge for birds and other wildlife. It is also a seasonally flooded wetland that provides valuable ecological benefits, including stormwater storage and (as) habitat for a variety of wildlife.
‘Much less negative effect’ than parking on course: Keefe
The council-approved resolution called Canal Shores, a community golf course that runs through Evanston and Wilmette, as a popular location with a wide variety of non-golfing uses – including walking, bird watching, running and cross-country skiing.
A causeway off Isabella in Evanston “would pose significant safety risks to pedestrians and cyclists” traveling along that street, the resolution says.
Additionally, “the causeway would have a detrimental effect on the design of the golf course – and specifically the area available for the 10th hole – which includes a demarcated wetland and several demarcated wetlands and several giant oak trees.”
But Keefe, in his remarks, told members of Evanston City Council that the easement approach as designed will not require the removal of trees, shrubs or other plantings.
Isabella’s course already contains a curb and this driveway is used for maintenance machinery.
“The visible approach will cross land that has already been developed and will not disturb the pristine or cultivated heritage in this area,” he said.
“Canal Shores is certainly a valued community partner in the Town of Evanston and an excellent steward of the open space property enjoyed by so many over the years,” he said, echoing the language of the resolution.
But Canal Shores “is also a private company,” he said. “It is a non-profit organization with its own goals and missions operating on public property.”
He said that during normal golf course operations, “Canal Shores parks thousands of cars each year on unpaved property. It would seem unusual for Evanston to allow this use of dozens of acres of open space while objecting to a much less negative effect on existing green space.
As for the safety issues the easement might pose, Isabella along Canal Shores currently has five streets and 17 roads running parallel to the golf course, he said.
The proposed roadway would be identical to those streets, he said. In addition, the causeway would adhere to the Water Reclamation District’s stormwater management ordinance, he said, addressing another concern included in the resolution, and would utilize the drainage systems the district already has in place. square.