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A Deeper Dive into the Facts and Figures

 

Wetland Mitigation Banks and Wetland Credits

  • From our Land Use Task Force report: The federal Clean Water Act of 1972, recognizing the ongoing loss of the natural environment, required developers to avoid or minimize the impact of construction on designated bodies of water. Under Section 404 of the Act, if negative environmental impacts are unavoidable, the developer must provide compensatory mitigation. In 1977, these provisions were extended to wetlands. The Clean Water Act required developers to
    preserve wetlands or provide compensatory mitigation if wetlands could not be saved. It created a marketplace of “wetland mitigation banking,” a process allowing developers to offset wetland destruction in one ecosystem through the purchase of “wetland credits” in a comparable local ecosystem.

  • Wetland credits are created by a private or public entity that restores, enhances, or creates wetland on its property through a regulatory protocol known as a “wetland mitigation bank.”

  • A wetland mitigation bank is not a financial institution or established third party. Rather, it is a vehicle established for the purpose of creating and selling specific wetland credits from
    approved wetland sites.

  • Lake County Storm Water Management Commission has proposed this to Lake Bluff Park District. They pay us to convert our golf course into Wetlands and sell wetland credits to developers, like Amazon, who destroy native wetlands elsewhere in Illinois.

  • Developers are not required to purchase credits from a Lake County bank. They may purchase from other banks across the state for less money. The history of credit values across the state and speculative and fluctuate dramatically. High priced credits would be the last to sell.

  • The Wetlands project is in perpetuity, meaning the land would convert permanently, saddling future generations with uncertain debt, maintenance expense, and unforeseen issues.

  • This proposal is highly financially and legally risky for our town and
    we would lose the Lake Bluff golf course forever.

 

(Contrary to lawn signs you may have read) there's no guarantee that taxes will not increase if the golf course is destroyed.

  • Our Park lands are not inexpensive to maintain. Lake Bluff Park District maintains approximately 64 acres, excluding the golf course. The golf course (145 acres) is maintained by Golf Visions at no cost to our Park District. It is a break-even asset. If the golf course is converted to a wetland, the acreage will more than double and maintenance costs will need to be funded by taxpayers.

  • Stormwater Management Commission will only pay wetland restoration construction. Any other amenities that have been suggested such as dog parks, soccer field(s), boardwalks, walking paths and fishing landings, will need to be paid for by taxpayers.

  • By law, a long-term maintenance escrow fund must be established by the Lake Bluff Park District for preservation of the created wetland prior to initiating any work. This project is in perpetuity.

  •  Lake Bluff Park District would be responsible for expensive ongoing wetlands maintenance. For comparison, Bartlett Prairie/Wetland is part of the Oswegoland Park District in DuPage County.This 13-acre wetland accumulates silt, motor oil, dirt, debris, leaves, lawn fertilizer, lawn clippings, and algae that settles into the basin every year. After 20 years, their onetime cleanup costs have exceeded $2.2M. Our Wetland project, 73 acres, is in perpetuity and we would likely face much
    larger costs.

  • Environmental literature states wetland mitigation projects have high rates of failure related to contracting, not meeting strict wetland standards, and financial reimbursement. Property
    owners, in our case the Lake Bluff Park District, will bear the expense of these failures.

  • We have NO guarantees of our future costs and what impact the
    Wetlands project will have on taxpayers.

Park District Debt Service: The Facts

 
  • Contrary to what you may be hearing from non-official sources, the golf course represents a relatively small portion of Lake Bluff Park District debt. Per the 2022 Plan, the Lake Bluff ParkDistrict has $6.57M in total outstanding debt. The golf course debt is only 8% of this total and will be paid off in 2026.

  • The pool carries 33% of the debt and will not be paid in full until 2029.

  • The recreation center addition and repairs contribute to 41% of the current debt and will not be paid off until 2032.

The Wetland Project does not solve Lake Bluff Park District financial needs

 
  • The Golf Course breaks even for our park district ever since Golf Visions began managing the course in 2018.

  • The expected annual capital improvement costs for the golf course are significantly lower than capital improvement costs of our other Lake Bluff Park District assets,

  • The Lake Bluff Golf Course accounts for 0.13% of a Lake Bluff property owner’s tax bill. In other words, for every $10,000 in property taxes paid, $12.68 goes toward the golf course.

  • The beach and the pool need repairs. Rough estimates are $2.2M for the pool and $4M-$6M for the beach. The money received from the wetlands project, only if successful, is
    estimated to payout $4.5M-$6.4M and take up to 10 years. This is not enough to cover the repairs to the pool and beach.

  • The project itself is estimated to cost $11.9M ($7.3 from SMC and $4.6 from LBPD) with a maximum return of $10.95M. Lake Bluff Park District must pay $4.6M before we see any reimbursement of revenue ($4.5M-$6.4M). The costs of this project outweigh the returns.

  • The above financials do not include the $1M potential donor contribution as stated by the Land Use Task Force, as there is no official legal agreement signed.

  • Conservative estimates of building a new golf course in today’s dollars are $25 million. The land value of the golf course far exceeds the $6.4 million generated from the
    wetland credits.

  • Fifteen percent (15%) of mitigation credit money goes directly to the mitigation bankers.

  • This proposal is a major loss to park district residents and will not solve the financial needs of the district.

Wetland Mitigation Failures: The Facts

 
  • Storm Water Management Commission has never done a project of this scale and complexity in Lake County. Over the last 20 years, the Storm Water Management Commission has only created/restored a total of 58 acres of wetlands. Our project is 73 acres.

  • Once a site is deemed suitable for Wetlands credits and constructed, it can NEVER be developed again. The wetland site must remain untouched and must be maintained by its owners in perpetuity. The financial burden of this fact cannot be underestimated.

  • Mitigation credits are subject to a series of strict regulations, requirements, and maintenance. If the sites do not live up to these requirements, the credits can be revoked and recouped; meaning the landowners (Lake Bluff Park District in this case) are required to refund the mitigation bank the initial money paid for the credit.

  • The risk of our wetland project failing is unknown and cannot be guaranteed.

  • See Wetland Failures in the important doc section.

Park District residents do not need another Preserve

 
  • The Lake County Forest Preserve District has an approved restoration plan for Oriole Grove (82 acres) restoration, which is part of the Skokie River Preserve. A portion of Oriole Grove, 40 acres, reside within the Lake Bluff Park District. The Skokie River Preserve is part of 282 acres of land, which resides in between the Lake Bluff (35 acres) and Lake Forest Open Lands. The restoration of the existing wetland is budgeted for $1.4 million, but the Lake County Forest Preserve, experts in this forestry and wetlands, do not have money needed for the restoration. Lake Bluff also has the 6.3-acre Carol Goetz wetlands which is east of the Bath and Tennis community.

  • We are within a few minutes’ drive or bike ride to Old School Preserve in east Libertyville, Middlefork Savanna in Lake Forest, Fort Sheridan on the Lake. For a slightly longer drive residents can go to Independence Grove in Northeast Libertyville.

  • Our town already owns 81 dog friendly acres.

The Golf Course is important to Lake Bluff: The Facts

 
  • The Lake Bluff Golf Course is one of the top 3 most used assets of our park district.

  • The figure of 8% of the residents playing the course come from a study done in 2017. The Park District reports the details of which do not remain. Since 2017, course activity has increased tremendously. The Park District and Golf Visions recorded 30,294 rounds played in 2021. 19,007 of them resident rounds. This does not include use of the driving range, chipping green, or putting green. There are no exact corresponding numbers for resident use %, but unofficial figures track more resident rounds of golf than resident visits to the beach or pool. Fewer residents are members of the fitness club and fewer residents are members of the paddle courts.

  • The golf course is the largest piece of land owned by Lake Bluff Park District.

  • The golf course was built in 1968 and has been an enjoyable part of our community for 54 years.

  • Destroying the course would destroy a 54-year established habitat with 1,000+ trees, flora, and fauna.

  • In the last village community survey (2013) the golf course was rated #4 of our 14 park district assets listed and a higher priority than open natural areas.

  • The Lake Bluff Golf Course also attracts non-residents who pay higher fees (11,297 total non-resident rounds played in 2021). The wetlands will not have a customer paying base. 

  • A golf course is a strong selling point for the real estate market in towns. Lake Bluff is no exception. Communities with Golf courses have higher property values. Every North Shore town, with the exception of Highwood and Kenilworth, have a public golf course.

  • The community does not expect the golf course to run like a country club and does not want or expect high capital improvements. There are annual capital improvements needed to run a golf course and our leasing management company, Golf Visions, will likely absorb a good portion of these costs.

  • The Golf Course is the home to our Lake Forest High School Varsity and JV boy’s golf teams. The Golf Course is also used by Lake Forest College. All pay for use of the course.

  • The Lake Bluff Golf Course provides learning facilities for after school programs, camps, and multiple high school teams in the area including LFHS, LFA, and Woodlands Academy.

  • The Lake Bluff Golf Course is host to year-round activities including cross-country skiing, dog walking, senior’s leagues, and after school programs.

  • Destroying the golf course would significantly impact our community both in the short term and for many generations to come.

Golf is a Growing Sport

 

In 2021, The National Golf Foundation reports the following stats*:

  • The percentage of women on the course rose to 25% in 2021, up from 19% a decade ago.

  • An even bigger jump is among junior golfers, where more than 35%, or 1.1 million, are girls, compared to 15% in 2000.

  • More than 3 million are junior golfers, laying a nice foundation for the future.

  • That group is becoming more diverse. More than 25% are non-Caucasian—a number that was just 6% 20 years ago.

  • Rounds at public facilities jumped 7%. 

  • The National Golf Foundation points to work-from-home as a significant driver in the increase in afternoon rounds.

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Chemical use on the golf course: The Facts

  • The course operator at the Lake Bluff Golf Club (Golf Visions) is extremely conscientious of property stewardship. The footprint of a golf course adds solid benefits by reducing our carbon footprint. Oxygen generated by trees, grass and other vegetation is significant. The products used on golf courses, both fertilizers and plant protectants, are extremely safe and non-polluting products.

  • Our golf course utilizes products that are safe to humans as well as other plants and animals.We utilize products that are EPA-approved and registered. The chemistry of fertilizers and chemicals are misunderstood as detrimental to the environment. Lake Bluff Golf Club utilizes only the finest, safest products available to provide outstanding turf conditions for golfers.

  • Per the Lake Bluff Park District website, chemicals used on ALL our parks and the golf course are herbicides with the lowest toxicity rating.

  • Similar herbicides are commonly used in wetlands to protect the plants from invasive species and harmful insects.

Know the Facts! Join Us to Support our Parks!