What are the stakes when a 35 acre horse farm is for sale in the middle of a mature and built-out suburbia?
In recent weeks, the Bolger family, which owns the Gladstone Ridge horse farm on Leask Lane in Wheaton, asked area homebuilders for bids to develop the property. And on Tuesday, the Forest Preserve District’s board voted unanimously to authorize district staff to pursue negotiations with the Bolger family to buy the horse farm.
While no purchase price has yet been determined, some recently developed subdivisions in the immediate vicinity have sold for between $275,000 and close to $500,000 an acre, suggesting that the Bolger family could expect to reap between about $10 million and $17 million for the land from a developer…
“We have not expressed an interest in selling the property to the Forest Preserve (District) and hope you are not of a mind to condemn our property,” she told commissioners. “Please value the rights of our private property and practice open communication.” Forest preserve districts use condemnation to purchase land through eminent domain…
Forest Preserve District officials haven’t yet said publicly if they would consider using condemnation powers to acquire the farm now if they are unable to reach an agreement with the Bolger family. And Wheaton officials said that they have not yet been approached by a developer seeking to develop the Bolgers’ land.
It sounds like the property could go two directions right now: (1) sale to a developer, who would likely build expensive residential units in an exclusive residential area, and (2) (forced?) sale to the Forest Preserve who has aggressively pursued property in DuPage County for decades.
More broadly, properties of this size do not come available often in suburbs that are older and largely built-out. Bigger properties tend to be emerge when redevelopment is a possibility. For example, just a few miles away in Naperville is a part of a large office park where a developer wanted to add several hundred residential units. Or, office parks in the I-90 corridor can become mixed-use properties.
This is different than noting decades ago that the last farms were disappearing from DuPage County. At that point, the farms disappeared to new subdivisions that continued the process of mass suburbanization. Redeveloping a horse farm or an office park or another large property now is different: it does not occur under conditions of mass construction, there are neighbors to the property who likely have concerns, and municipalities and other government agencies think carefully about what the next use for a property could be. The character of the nearby neighborhoods and communities are already established yet a sizable redevelopment could alter future experiences. In other words, when larger parcels of land are infrequent, the stakes for getting this right may be even higher.