Condemnation was a hot legal topic a while back, what with the awful (in my opinion) Kelo decision and all. So, I have to admit I like it when a private property owner is able to buck the system.
It appears just that has happened in the south suburbs of Chicago. Here's the story. Anna Mae "Babe" Ahern is 101 years old. She's spent her whole life at the Evergreen Country Club in Evergreen Park, a 95 acre property her family has owned for eons. Before you start thinking it, ECC is not some exclusive private club. It appeals to the average Joe, and Ahern claims her course was one of the first to allow minorities to play. Its rates are affordable, and while I haven't played there, it looks like a nice enough track from the street.
In 1999, Ahern offered to sell her "inheritance" to a developer back in 1999, who offered $25 million for the land so it could build a Home Depot and some housing. The village, however, nixed the idea by refusing to rezone the property. So the deal tanked and a golf course it stayed, to this day. (HD was built just down the street, if I recall correctly.)
Here's where it gets ugly. The village decided it wanted to buy the property for what it says would be recreational purposes. When a price could not be agreed upon (surprise, surprise), the village decided to file a condemnation action to take the land. Ahern naturally opposed the lawsuit. You already know the contentions of the parties. The village wants to value the land at its current use (with a value of $5-6 million), and Ms. Ahern replied by arguing that the village should pay the value based on its highest and best use.
The little old lady demanded a jury. And, after deliberating a whole half hour, the jury sided with...Ms. Ahern. Yup. If the village wants the land, it has to cough up $25 million. It should not be allowed to keep the zoning downgraded to lower its value for condemnation purposes.
The village says it is looking into its legal options, but I would not be surprised if this just sat for a while, given the economic climate and, alas, the inevitable. I say: Good for Babe Ahern!