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May 8th, 2009 — By — In News & Events

101-year old property owner wins eminent domain court battle against village

On Tuesday (May 5, 2009) a Cook County, Illinois jury awarded Ema Mae “Babe” Ahern $25 million for the taking of her 95-acre golf course and country club property in the Village of Evergreen Park on Chicago’s South Side. News stories about the jury trial and the property owner, Babe Ahern, reported that Ms. Ahern has lived on the property since her birth 101 years ago and that she continues to actively run the golf course and club, her family’s business.

The primary issue before the jury in this trial was determining the value of the property, the amount that the village should pay to take it by eminent domain. In 1999, Ahern was approached by a developer who offered to purchase her property for $25 million. The developer planned to build a mixed-use commercial and residential development. However, the village refused to rezone the land and the sale fell through.

In 2001, Evergreen Park offered between $5 and $6 million to purchase the property. When negotiations were unsuccessful in 2002, the Village filed eminent domain to seize the property. In court, attorneys for Evergreen Park argued that the value of the land should be based upon the village’s intended use as green space for “municipal recreational purposes.” However, the property owner’s attorneys argued that the value of the property should be based upon the highest and best use of the property as commercial and that the village’s intended use could be secured through zoning or ordinances.

After about 30 minutes, the jury returned the verdict of $25 million as just compensation for the taking of the Evergreen Golf and Country Club. At this time, the Village of Evergreen Park has not indicated whether it would appeal the decision, pay the $25 million or simply walk away. If the village decides not to take the property, it will still be required to pay Ahern’s legal expenses for the duration of this 7-year legal battle.

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