Commissioners give green light to land cooperative in Cook County

The land cooperative model is coming to the east end of Cook County.

Known as Tamarack Land Cooperative, the 40-acre property along North Road will be a unique venture in Cook County.

A week after the local planning commission approved the project, the Cook County Board of Commissioners gave the green light to the proposal to form a co-op on land between the Arrowhead Trail and the unincorporated community of Hovland.

What is a land cooperative?

This is essentially an arrangement where co-op members will pay a monthly or yearly user fee to allow them full use of the property on site. According to the property’s current owner, Paul Stucker, there will be three full-time resident members (including Stucker), six members staying 50 nights or less per year, and ten members staying 14 nights or less per year.

According to the co-op’s permit application to the county, the land use model “will provide equitable access to stay and recreate in the area, while creating a community of people with shared values.”

Included in their cooperative model are a variety of uses for the property, including vacation rentals, artist residencies, public events, and chicken farming.

The county council approved the project at a meeting on June 14. It passed a 4-1 vote, with Commissioner Stacey Hawkins casting the only vote against the Interim Use Permit (IUP).

Although the permit was approved by the county council on Tuesday, other restrictions are now in place, in addition to those drafted by the planning commission. For example, the duration of the IUP has been reduced from five years to two years. The number of events and size of events held on the property each year has also been reduced. The planning commission approved 12 events on the property each year, with up to 80 people allowed to attend. The county council reduced that number to five events a year, with no more than 40 people attending.

Additionally, there are nine conditions that property owners must meet in order to comply with the permit, including expanding the septic tank on the property, monitoring and limiting noise and light pollution, and complying with all rules and regulations relating to short term rentals in Cook County.

Concerns were raised by some Hovland residents about the proposal, both at the June 8 planning commission meeting and Tuesday’s county council meeting. The project and the land cooperative have also been supported by members of the local community, said Commissioner Dave Mills.

“We have those concerns, and the public has expressed those concerns,” Mills said. “There is also significant public support, I want to emphasize that. And so I don’t want to reject that. It’s just that we try to be conservative in how changes are made in the neighborhood and how the property is used.

Going forward, the property will be unique both in terms of ownership of the land and what it offers to artists or others looking to enjoy life in a remote pocket of the county. However, the vision for the property did not receive the full support of the county council. Expressing concern about the landlord’s request, Hawkins, who was the only one to vote against Tuesday, said she wasn’t sure it was the right solution for this residential neighborhood.

“I do not believe the proposed use of this parcel is consistent with the desirable pattern of development in the area,” Hawkins said.

Now that the IUP is approved, the county still needs to determine the taxation of the property. The cooperative land model does little in the way of determining its tax classification, as it is not a non-profit organization. The word “resort” surfaced in classification, both at the planning commission meeting and the county council meeting. Ultimately, the Cook County assessor will determine how to tax the package.

Commissioner Bob Svaleson, who represents the Hovland area, said reducing the permit to two years could be an opportunity for the county, co-op landowners and nearby landowners to learn about the project.

“It provides the opportunity over this two-year period to better understand and set up the business model and how it’s going to work and what works for this facility,” he said.

Virginia S. Braud