Home News Plaintiff’s Lawsuit to Halt Winnetka Park District Property Exchange Dismissed, but Intends to Reopen Legal Proceedings

Plaintiff’s Lawsuit to Halt Winnetka Park District Property Exchange Dismissed, but Intends to Reopen Legal Proceedings

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Plaintiff’s Lawsuit to Halt Winnetka Park District Property Exchange Dismissed, but Intends to Reopen Legal Proceedings

A county judge has dismissed a lawsuit against the Winnetka Park District and a controversial property exchange agreement along the lakefront.

The suit, filed by resident Rob Schriesheim in October 2022, alleged that the agreement between the park district and Justin Ishbia, who owns park-splitting 261 Sheridan Road, violated the Illinois Park District Code by swapping land of unequal value and the general public trust doctrine by conveying land that belongs to the general public.

The Circuit Court of Cook County determined, nevertheless, that the district’s land appraisals that informed the exchange agreement were fair and timely and that Schriesheim’s team did not prove the park district acted “arbitrarily or without reason” when it swapped public-trust land.

Park district officials celebrated the choice on Friday, Oct. 6.

“We’re extremely pleased the court upheld the Park Board’s decision to enter into the exchange agreement and located the district complied with the law,” Park District President Christina Codo said in a press release. “The Park Board all the time acts with the very best interest of the community in mind and can proceed to be guided by that principle as plans to enhance the lakeshore proceed.”

In response to the court’s opinion, through the proceedings, Schriesheim’s team didn’t dispute that the park district had lawful appraisals prior to getting into the exchange agreement. As an alternative, the plaintiff disagreed with the findings of those appraisals, which the court said is just not evidence of a violation of the Illinois Park District Code.

To prove the land exchange violated the general public trust doctrine, in line with the opinion, Schriesheim’s team must prove that the topic land is for public use, the park district has taken motion that puts the land’s intended use in jeopardy, and that motion “is unfair and unreasonable.”

Judge Eve Reilly dismissed all three counts alleged within the lawsuit, but only two of them with prejudice. The opposite — Count II referencing the exchange of public-trust land — was dismissed without prejudice, leaving the door open for a refiling.

Attorney Paul Gaynor, of the firm Sperling & Slater representing Schriesheim, said in a press release that Schriesheim’s focus in filing the suit was on the general public trust doctrine and he plans to regulate and resubmit his grievance.

“We appreciate the court’s ruling. The order allows us to pursue the crux of our case that the Winnetka Park District’s proposed exchange of the Centennial Park beach is a violation of the general public trust doctrine,” Gaynor said. “Mr. Schriesheim plans to amend his grievance, consistent with the court’s guidance, to reveal that the exchange is unfair and unreasonable. Mr. Schriesheim will proceed to guard the general public’s right to make use of and luxuriate in public land.”

A standing hearing on the choice is ready for Nov. 1 on Zoom.

The topic of the lawsuit is the exchange agreement that the park district entered into in October 2020, hoping to amass land in between Elder and Centennial beaches and giving up a portion on the southern fringe of Centennial. The exchange would enable a longtime goal of the district: a 1,000-foot, public and contiguous beachfront at the situation.

For 3 years the agreement has drawn skepticism and outrage throughout the community, much of it linked to initial beach-improvement plans that impacted access to and views of the lakefront.

The agreement is stuck in limbo partly due to Schriesheim’s lawsuit; nevertheless, the suit’s dismissal won’t necessarily enable the execution of the agreement. A couple of month ago, Ishbia publicly revealed he desired to donate $3 million to the Winnetka Park District, a suggestion that keeps “dormant” the property exchange between the 2 parties.

The donation reportedly would enable more advanced improvements for Elder and Centennial beaches, including a fenced-in dog beach. The Park Board must first vote to simply accept the donation and is working through that process now.

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