Why land at heart of controversial real estate deal in South Barrington is headed back to auction block


Undeveloped, publicly owned land in South Barrington that was at the heart of a controversial — and now-scrapped — real estate deal earlier this summer is headed back to the auction block.

The South Barrington Park District board on Wednesday night voted to again put the 34-acre site at Bartlett Road and Route 59 up for sale at a February auction.

Park district voters in April decided to auction off the land, which sometimes is called “Area N.” The district acquired the once privately owned tree nursery in 2003.

Officials later determined the land isn’t ideal for recreational activities because of topography and other factors.

Park district officials have said the money generated by a sale would pay for improving local parks.

An auction was held in May, and a Schaumburg-based religious group called Fourth Avenue Gospel Building Inc. was the lone bidder, offering about $1.7 million for the property.

Fourth Avenue is owned and operated by a suburban congregation of a relatively small group called the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church.

Fourth Avenue representatives said they wanted to build a house of worship and a school on the land.



Dozens of residents protested the deal once the potential buyer was identified this summer. In interviews and public comments, opponents listed the proposed use of the land and some of the Plymouth Brethren’s practices — including a doctrine of separation that forbids eating or drinking with nonmembers — among their concerns.

Some residents also claimed, without proof, that parks officials conspired to ensure Fourth Avenue won the auction by not publicizing the sale better.

Ultimately, the park district board voted to cancel the sale.

The voter-approved referendum allowed parks officials to hold up to three auctions in one year for the property, parks officials have said.

The next auction is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 28 at the park district headquarters, 3 Tennis Club Lane.

Anyone can attend or make a bid, park district Executive Director Jay Morgan said.

Additionally, officials will address “any concerns raised by the residents from the last auction” before the next one, Morgan said.

A Fourth Avenue spokesman couldn’t be reached for comment.



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