Bensenville neighbors tussle over land sale in White Pines as Park District eyes big money

Bensenville Park District Commissioners could get a hefty price tag from developers if the council goes ahead with a controversial proposal to sell a large chunk of White Pines Golf Club.

But many residents of a leafy area adjacent to White Pines are fighting over the future of the public 36-hole course.

The Park District successfully lobbied for a change in state law allowing the sale of up to 125 acres of golf course. The under-the-radar legislation expires in January 2023, meaning such a deal would likely have to be approved by the council months in advance.

Developers could shell out an eye-catching sum of money for open land in a hot industrial real estate market around O’Hare International Airport. A 30-year-old two-story home in the Mohawk Terrace neighborhood sold for $1.7 million last summer before developers tore it down — along with the entire 106-home subdivision — for make way for warehouses.

If the Park District were to sell 125 acres of White Pines land, Park District Executive Director Joseph Vallez said, its value in the industrial market “would be about $100 million at a minimum.”

If that acreage were sold for residential redevelopment, by comparison, it could fetch about “$20 million, maybe a little less,” Vallez said.


But locals called it a cash grab.

“We lost properties to O’Hare so they could build tracks,” said Chuck Rizzo, who lives near the southeastern edge of the golf course and spotted land surveyors in his backyard. few months ago. “Now we will divest more non-industrial assets sold to developers who will again serve the airport. We are in a hurry from north and south.”

Janell Taraszka helped rally dozens of neighbors who showed up at a park board meeting on Wednesday to protest the land sale. The meeting was moved to the Deer Grove Leisure Center gymnasium in part to accommodate attendance.

“We’re supposed to add green spaces — mostly because we’re surrounded by O’Hare, we’re surrounded by railroads,” Taraszka said. “…They put (potential development) at the center of our community, which is unacceptable.”

Gina Mellenthin, a former board member of the park, is also worried about the loss of greenery.

“People in this area have taken a huge hit coming close to O’Hare,” she said. “So now your pollution barrier is a lot closer than it was before. At least we had the land around it that could absorb some of that. … There’s no longer 125 acres contiguous in the region.

White Pines had struggled to make a profit before municipal courts experienced a resurgence in popularity during the pandemic. But some residents say the park district postponed maintenance of White Pines and should have stepped up marketing to boost golf activity.

The park district prepared the ground for possible redevelopment by studying how to spend the revenue that would be generated from the sale of the White Pines land. On Wednesday evening, the council was due to hire consultants for a sports market analysis that could help assess golf’s prospects and determine which facilities and recreation programs could benefit from an infusion of cash.

“If sold, whether through residential development, light industrial development, or a combination of the two, 100% of such proceeds would accrue to the Bensenville Park District,” Vallez said.

The district could potentially use the proceeds to develop the remaining 135 acres of White Pines into a new recreation facility under a concept plan called “Bensenville 2.0.”

“We put in this master plan a potential hotel, but again, it’s just a master plan with visionary type things,” Vallez said.

He said there were still plenty of options on the table. The do-nothing option “leaves the park district in a precarious position, with approximately $7 million in replacements and capital improvements” going unfunded, Vallez said.

He offered a timeline on when the park board might decide on a directive: “probably 120 days before the legislation expires”.

• Scott C. Morgan, editor of the Daily Herald, contributed to this report