A longtime horse training and boarding facility in Lake in the Hills has been shut down, leaving the village and others debating the property's future.
Village leaders last week evicted boarders of the Silver Lining Equestrian center from village-owned property at 1109 Pyott Road. Business owner Tricia Sales was told to vacate the property after the village terminated her lease in February due to disputes over the past two years.
Village Administrator Jennifer Clough said the eviction was prompted by "continued noncompliance and unpaid rent obligations."
"We had received a written notice that they were going to tear it down and turn it into green space," Sales said.
Supporters launched an online campaign to save the stables. The site has been home to an equestrian business for more than 50 years under various owners. Joan Larsen started the original Spring Hill Farm Riding School there in 1964 on her family farm, and hundreds of equestrians began their careers there.
The village purchased the 27-acre property for $2.6 million in a 2002 estate sale. Officials had planned to keep it running as a horse facility and leased out the stables to five separate tenants operating equestrian training and boarding facilities, as well as the nonprofit Mane in Heaven.
The property also is home to Larsen Park and the Algonquin/Lake in the Hills Interfaith Food Pantry.
Village trustees have said they want to get out of the horse business as no other municipality runs its own equestrian center. Barrington Hills and Palatine have equestrian centers run by their park districts.
"At no point has the village entertained commercial building of this land, nor is any plan being contemplated which would alter the facilities or operation of the park or food pantry," officials said in a news release.
Clough said village board members are committed to maintaining the property "as public land for uses most beneficial and appropriate for the community."
"The village's Future Land Use Map calls for the area occupied by the equestrian center to be open space, and it is zoned institutional," she added.
Officials have established a committee to evaluate the future of the site. It will convene Wednesday and seek community input before making a recommendation to the village board about sustainable uses for the property.
Clough said the committee will consider how equestrian centers are run by suburban park districts as part of its analysis.
Sales said she tried working with the village on perhaps doing something similar there, but another eviction notice arrived last week ordering her to clear out within five days. She boarded up her business Tuesday and is looking for a fresh start in another state.
"They were not only a difficult landlord but they didn't take care of the little things," said Sales, 38, formerly of Palatine and Cary, who has been riding horses since she was 11 years old.
Sales had been running Lake in the Hills' stables for about four years and was living in a trailer house on-site. She said persistent roof leaks caused flooding of some of the 40 horse stalls rendering them unusable. She also spent more than $100,000 on maintenance and upkeep of the property.
"I've put my life savings into that property," Sales said. "A ton of my business came from teaching riding lessons. I had about 50 students that came through there every week."
Clough said maintenance responsibilities were shared by the tenant and the village based on provisions of the lease agreement.
"The village, of course, bears the responsibility for capital improvements to the property," she said. "As it is an aging facility, it has and will require the expenditure of significant resources to maintain and improve."
Meanwhile, Sales' customers from Algonquin, Barrington, Lake in the Hills, and McHenry County now will have to drive many miles to find another equestrian facility.
"I've had to refer them to barns that are about 20 minutes away," Sales said. "This is a place that kept kids off the streets. They would learn good work ethic and how to actually be responsible. It's just such a shame that the village doesn't want something like that in their town. Hopefully, they don't tear it down."