Deeds and WeedsMay 7, 2009

The Battle of Evergreen CC

This article in today's Chicago Tribune tells the interesting story about Anna Mae Ahern and Evergreen CC, which is located in the Chicago suburb of Evergreen Park. The course sits on 95 acres of land that used to be the Ahern family farm and restaurant, but which was converted to a public golf course in 1921. Ahern, 101, eventually inherited the facility from her relatives, and has lived in a house on the property her entire life.

"I know every blade of grass by its first name," she told reporters.

Ahern claims the public course was one of the first in Chicago to allow African-Americans to play. Chicago Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks played Evergreen Park frequently, she says.

Why is she in the news now? Ten years ago a developer offered Ahern $25 million for the course so it could build a Home Depot there. Evergreen Park officials refused to rezone the land for that use, so the deal fell through. The town subsequently tried to buy Evergreen CC from Ahern in order to ensure that it would remain green space, but offered her substantially less than the developers had, perhaps $5 million. When Ahern refused, the town tried to seize the land under eminent domain. The two sides ended up in court.

The case dragged on for seven years, culiminating in a seven-day trial that concluded this week. The jury decided in Ahern's favor, ruling (after less than 30 deliberation) that if the town wants to buy Evergreen CC, it must pay Ahern the same price she could have received from the developers 10 years ago: $25 million.

According to the report, the town hasn't decided whether to appeal, buy the land or simply drop the matter.

-- G.R.