The Commissioners of the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago voted on Nov. 19 to grant an easement to the Cook County Department of Transportation and Highways to construct at public expense what will essentially be a private road to allow a Wilmette developer to construct homes on an otherwise landlocked parcel.

The 426-foot road would allow egress across the 10th hole of Canal Shores Golf Course for a development of three or more homes on a parcel of land belonging to
the Keefe Family Trust.

The City of Evanston and the Village of Wilmette lease the property on which the golf course is located from MWRD.

Over the past several months, Keefe had sought easements from the City of Evanston and the Wilmette Park District to build the road so it could develop the property.

Having been turned down, Keefe went to Cook County, asking that the Department of Transportation and Highways request an easement from the MWRD Board to build a “public” road. The vote to grant the easement was 5-4.

Local MWRD Commissioner Debra Shore was one of the four “No” votes.
In a letter sent to constituents, Ms. Shore wrote, “I am disappointed with the outcome – as, I suspect, you are, too. Please know that numerous conditions will be placed on the easement that must be met before any road is built. We will work to minimize the negative impacts on nearby houses and on the golf course, and to ensure that no trees will be cut down.  

“No construction can begin until all necessary permits and approvals are obtained from the Village of Wilmette, from Cook County, and from MWRD itself.  

“Finally, it is also possible that today’s vote is not the end of this story. I continue to hope that a different and better solution can be found, and will continue to work with this aim in mind.”  

The Evanston-Wilmette Golf Course Association, which operates Canal Shores, issued a statement decrying the vote as “a benefit for a politically connected landowner. … While this vote is a stunning setback and sets a dangerous precedent by permitting the use of public land for private benefit, this is only the first step in a much larger battle, one that is not over. Canal Shores has been around for 100 years, and we will fight to ensure it is around for another 100 years.”

Larry Suffredin, Cook County Commissioner for the 13th District, which includes the site of the proposed road, issued a statement that said in part, “I am disappointed that the Board of Commissioners of the MWRD granted the easement and that they did not put environmental protections in their authorization for the easement.  

“Now the County will have to provide environmental protections, including restricting the size of the construction, restricting the type of construction and cost allocation. The County will begin negotiating with the landowner an agreement that includes all safeguards. This negotiation will take some time and when completed, will be presented to the Cook County Board of Commissioners for action. But before the County Board acts, all building and zoning requirements of the Village of Wilmette will have to be satisfied.”

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...