Park Ridge homes being hit by golf balls from country club.

by | Oct 25, 2022 | Golf Balls

Park Ridge Mayor Marty Maloney said Oct. 17 he’d commit to facilitating a discussion between residents and the Park Ridge Country Club to help prevent golf balls hit at the club’s driving range from hitting people and property at neighboring homes.

City Council and other city committees have periodically discussed the issue of rogue golf balls throughout the summer in the context of a resident’s attempt to install a net on his property to catch fly balls. But council members rejected a change to the zoning code meant to address the issue in a 0-6 vote after the applicant said the change wouldn’t give him what he needed.

Anthony Ori of the 700 block of Hastings Street was the applicant for the amendment to the zoning code. Ori’s property looks out onto the Park Ridge Country Club and he originally came to the city requesting an “L” shaped net on his property to catch golf balls coming out of the country club.

The change would have allowed the fencing to reach 15 feet high on any property that abuts the golf course. But that only would have let Ori install a net on the northern boundary of his property, when he wanted to put the netting on the eastern property line.

“We’re really kind of going backwards here,” Ori told aldermen Monday.

The city’s Planning and Zoning Commission approved the proposal in a 4-2 vote June 28, according to a staff memo about the proposal. Had it passed Monday, the measure would have been applicable to all properties adjacent to the golf course, while a variance would have only applied to Ori’s property.

“Mr. Ori could have applied for a variance specific to his property and requested relief from the City Code, due to a legally-established hardship in complying with City Code,” Director of Community Preservation and Development Drew Awsumb wrote in an email to Pioneer Press.

City staff guided Ori to apply for a change to code overall instead of a standalone exception, or variance, because Ori’s situation could apply to a number of houses on his street.

“Mr. Ori’s condition exists up & down Hastings Street, in a nearly identical manner. In fact, other residents and neighbors attended Monday night and stated as such – they face the same situation as Mr. Ori,” Awsumb said.

Awsumb added that Ori’s request had two other components that prompted a process directed at changing the zoning code: city code does not have engineered sports netting as a permitted material and Ori wanted to build a fence that was 15 feet high when Park Ridge only permits five-foot fences.

After discussion of why Ori had applied for a change to the zoning code overall as opposed to a variance or exception, Ald. John Moran told Ori he understood his frustration and asked if the city could waive the application fee for a second process under the purview of the Zoning Board of Appeals. The Zoning Board of Appeals handles requests for variances and interpretations of the city’s zoning code.

Two of Ori’s neighbors also came before the council to request that the city take a role in helping address the rogue golf balls.

Phillip Leslie, also of the 700 block of Hastings Street, came armed with signs and statistics: namely, that he and his neighbors had worked out that their street had seen 4,800 stray balls from the driving range year-to-date.

“Although this does impact residents, it also impacts passers by,” Leslie said.

Aldermen puzzled over what the city’s role was in a dispute between neighbors and the club, to which Leslie responded that people on city sidewalks and right-of-way were also at risk of being hit.

“I simply want to point out there’s a broader issue that impacts much more than Mr. Ori’s property,” he said.

He advocated for moving the driving range to a more central location within the club or restricting its hours.

A sticking point in the conversation was neighbors’ general reluctance to put netting on the entire property line between residents and the club, which the amendment before Council would have allowed for.

Ald. Rick Biagi said he had attended a recent meeting with the country club and neighbors and observed that residents were receptive to ball-tracking technology that would alert club staff to multiple stray flies in a row.

But “the clear direction given to the country club was that (the fence) was resoundly opposed by all the neighbors across the board,” Biagi said.

Matt Newton, of the same block, said he remembered the city probing a similar question almost a decade earlier and said he thought it was time for another swing at the issue.

He told aldermen that his daughter had recently had a narrow miss with a stray ball and that his house and yard equipment had sustained many dents from too-hard line drives.

“It’s only a matter of time until something really bad happens,” Newton said. “I don’t know the solution; I’m not here to propose that the city do something.”

Newton added that he wasn’t set on never seeing another golf ball in his yard ever again, but on mitigating the problem.

“Our goal is not to solve 100% of the golf balls, it’s to solve 80, 90%,” he said.

City Council also heard the proposal at its July 5 meeting, but deferred action on it so residents could meet with the country club to discuss possible solutions.

After the Oct. 17 discussion, Maloney said he’d commit to bringing the country club and neighbors together to work toward a solution.

“I know we’ve had this conversation, but maybe it’s time to have it again,” he said. “Perhaps there is an opportunity for somebody on our side to try and bring people together again.”

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