By Joe Kaiser -
Ken Loch Golf Links in unincorporated Lombard opened 50 years ago. Now the owners, siblings Rich Kensinger and Linda Lies, are ready to sell the business their father started and retire. Kensinger, 68, and Lies, 62, are battling health issues, and the golf course is not as profitable as it once was.
“I was 18 years old when my folks opened this place,” Kensinger said. “We gave it a good run. Ken Loch Golf Links has been here 50 years, and I wanted to have a real nice development when we left," noted Kensinger.
However, selling their 31-acre piece of property is not as simple as Rich had Linda had hoped. Politics, property rights, and county and local government authority now surround it.
This past June, Lombard trustees voted 5-1 to keep 75 percent of the Ken Loch property open space, and the DuPage County zoning does not welcome Rich's and Linda's preferred buyer. While the county zoned the site for single-family houses, Donven Homes, the property owner's preferred buyer, wants to build a mixed development with apartments and townhomes.
But some on the Lombard trustee board, such as Trustee Reid Foltyniewicz (photo right), do not want a mixed development. “People don’t see a need for it,” Foltyniewicz said. “We have so many apartments already in Lombard. I just don’t see a need for it.”
Doug O’Brien, a public policy and communications consultant has been following the issue closely. He agrees with Kensinger, and believes the village of Lombard is infringing on Rich's and Linda's property rights.
“A few village board members feel it would be real swell and dandy if it would be open space,” O’Brien said. “People of good conscious have to say ‘you know what...it’s time for the government to stand down and take their role seriously of encouraging economic growth.'”
O'Brien sees what the village is doing as "almost like eminent domain without the purchase part."
David From (photo right), Illinois State Director of Americans for Prosperity (AFP), agrees with O'Brien. "The village, in essence, is trying to block property owners from using their land," From said.
O’Brien pointed to an April Illinois Review story, which was published just before Lombard held its non-partisan trustee board elections. The story reported that the Democratic Party of DuPage County (DPDC) endorsed three board candidates. O’Brien said that because of the Democratic Party backing, and therefore outside influence on the board, there is a lot at stake politically.
“From a broader political perspective, more and more of the 'machine-aligned' officials are getting elected,” O’Brien said. “If people are asleep at the switch in DuPage County, they're going to find a lot of Mike Madigan acolytes running their town.”
One of those endorsed by the DPDC in April was Foltyniewicz, a Republican despite the Democratic endorsement. Foltyniewicz insists the village and county are not infringing upon property rights.
“I would be speaking in favor of (the property owners) as a board member if I felt they [county and local government] were infringing upon their rights to sell their land,” Foltyniewicz said.
He added that besides Donven Homes, the Ken Loch owners have two additional offers, including one from the park district. He said their refusal to consider the other two offers makes him question their motives.
"I don’t know what (the motive) is -- whether it's greed or they're angry at the village," Foltyniewicz said. "I don’t know if they’re really serious about selling. If they're looking just for controversy, they are doing a good job."
During a DuPage County Zoning Board of Appeals public hearing Aug. 8, some citizens raised concerns about the possibility of the mixed development, especially on the issue of potential flooding. They were joined by Foltyniewicz and State Rep. Sandra Pihos (photo right).
The Zoning Board of Appeals also heard the property owner's request for rezoning. But Village officials opposing the potential rezoning believe the action is inconsistent with the county's past land-use planning, dating back to 1990. The board will make a decision on rezoning Oct. 3.
AFP's David From, believing property rights are in jeopardy, hopes Kensinger and Lies are given the chance to sell to the developer they want. “It’s their property,” From said. “They should be able to use it how they’d like and be compensated for it.”
On the other side, Foltyniewicz, who made keeping the private property as open space a key issue in his campaign, said he believes the county should not decide to overrule a local government, and he looks forward to hopefully seeing the issue resolved by the fall.
“It’s definitely getting to be a bigger and bigger issue,” Foltyniewicz said, “and hopefully can be resolved for both sides soon.”
Joe Kaiser is a staff reporter for Illinois Review