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Litigation Over Gordon Park Not Stopping Sale Plans

The Park District has won the latest round in one of the court cases.

Another day brings another legal obstacle for the Park District of La Grange.

Following the dismissal of Orlando Coryell’s challenge to the park district’s attempts to sell a 2.82 acre parcel of Gordon Park, Coryell told The Doings Newspaper he planned to take his case to the state Supreme Court. Patch was unable to contact Coryell concerning a possible appeal.

So far though, that appeal has not been made. Rob Bush, the park district’s attorney, said he has not received anything indicating Coryell intends to take his case to the state’s highest court. Bush said any appeal will also depend on whether or not Coryell can find an attorney willing to take the case on a pro bono basis.

“So far he’s survived by finding lawyers with nothing better to do than work on his lawsuits for free,” Bush said.

Coryell took the Park District to court to challenge the planned sale of Gordon Park land through a public referendum. Residents supported the referendum proposal by a 10-point margin of 55 to 45 percent. Coryell challenged the referendum after only one company made a public bid. In 2009 the courts ruled the bid regulations favored Atlantic Realty Partners and amounted to being a private sale. Circuit Court Judge Leroy Martin ruled zoning changes granted by the village, and a land swap between the village and the park district, applied only to ARP's planned redevelopment of the former YMCA site, which would include the auctioned park land. 

The Park District appealed the ruling, but opted to drop the appeal after another court cleared the land sale under the Commissioners Land Sale Act, which gives Illinois park district boards of commissioners the authority to declare a portion of a park, or all of a park, no longer needed for park purposes and sell it.

The proposed land parcel lies adjacent to the now-demolished Rich Port YMCA, 31 E. Ogden Ave.

Bush said the case has far greater implications than just the possible land sale of La Grange Park District land. He said the case will challenge the ability of any government body to sell land it holds to a private entity.

Park District President Mary Ellen Penicook said if Coryell doesn’t like the notion of a park district or other government entity having the ability to sell land held in trust, he should lobby the state legislature to change the law. She questioned whether or not the Supreme Court would agree to hear the case.

In addition to the Coryell lawsuit, the park district also faces an additional legal challenge from a group of about 25 citizens acting under the name Friends of La Grange Parks. The Friends are fighting the sale, saying the village has little useable green space and the sale of even a handful of acres will diminish it even more.

The Friends challenged the district’s right to sell the land under the Land Sale Act, but Judge Susan Fox Gillis ruled Oct. 8 that the park district was within its rights to sell the land. The Friends appealed that ruling, but a ruling has yet to be made. In the meantime the park district is free to attempt to sell the land. Penicook said the district has been approached by several entities interested in purchasing the land.

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