Park District of La Grange

The Illinois Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal over the Park District of La Grange's proposed sale of a piece of Gordon Park, clearing the Park District to move forward if it can find a buyer. (Michelle Manchir, Chicago Tribune / May 20, 2013)

After a lawsuit and two unsuccessful appeals, a La Grange citizens group is out of options to prevent the sale of a piece of Gordon Park.

"We're disappointed, but it is the end of the game," said Tom Beyer, an attorney for La Grange Friends of the Parks.

The Illinois Supreme Court recently declined to hear the Friends' appeal of a lower court's decision allowing the Park District of La Grange to sell a 2.82-acre piece of the park. The park, located near the intersection of Ogden Avenue and La Grange Road, is 17 acres.

The group filed suit against the Park District over the sale in 2009, following a referendum a year earlier in which La Grange voters approved the sale. A developer had offered $3 million for the land, according to court documents. A circuit court and an appellate court supported the Park District's decision to sell, but the Supreme Court declined to hear the case Jan. 29.

"We're very pleased with the result – it is helpful both to the Park District and to all park districts in making clear the method by which land under 3 acres can be sold," Park District attorney Rob Bush said.

The Park District argued money from the sale of the parcel – a sloped area in the park's northwest corner with trees, grass and a maintenance shed – would benefit the public more than the land itself.

Illinois law allows park districts to sell parcels less than 3 acres if the land is no longer needed. The Supreme Court's decision not to hear the Friends' appeal is an affirmation of the law and the process by which park districts may deem land unusable and sell it, Bush said.

The Friends argued that all park land is valuable. In court documents, the group stated the area is used for jogging and other activities.

Further, Beyer argued with the appellate court's ruling that the Park District obeyed the law when it subdivided a larger piece of land to sell a piece less than 3 acres.

"If that's the case, then the rule has no real effect," he said. He questioned what prevents the Park District from subdividing any land into pieces less than 3 acres and selling it.

In 2008, the Village of La Grange approved a development plan for Atlanta-based Atlantic Realty Partners to build apartments, townhomes and retail space on the corner of La Grange Road and Ogden Avenue. The development would have spanned YMCA and Park District land. Atlantic dropped the proposal amid the economic downturn and the Friends' suit.

Since then, Park District of La Grange Executive Director Dean Bissias said he has received more than a dozen inquiries about the acreage. Recently, he has been receiving calls as often as once-a-week, with some companies calling multiple times. None have yet made an offer, Bissias said.

"What their intentions are I don't know," he said.

The district won't assess the land's value until a developer makes a serious offer, he said.

The Village of La Grange is in talks with Minneapolis-based Opus Development Company about the adjacent YMCA property, for which the developer has offered to pay about $9 million. Bissias said Opus has inquired about the Gordon Park land, but has not made an offer. | Twitter: @wesventeicher