Appellate court sides with Barrington Hills on horse boarding issue

The village of Barrington Hills has the authority to regulate horse boarding on residential property, according to a recent appellate court ruling that could end at least one part of three-year legal fight over a local horse farm.

Barrington Hills residents Cathleen and Benjamin LeCompte sued the village last year, challenging its jurisdiction over their Oakwood Farms, located on a residentially zoned 130-acre site along Bateman Road.

The couple appeared before Barrington Hills' zoning board of appeals in August 2008, arguing that the operation — which features a barn large enough to house 60 horses and 110 acres of riding space — is an agricultural use outside the village's ability to regulate. The zoning board disagreed, and a Cook County court later sided with the village.

On Sept. 21, the Illinois First District Appellate Court upheld that lower court decision.

“We find that the commercial boarding of horses is not a permitted use of property in a R-1 zoned district because it is not agriculture as the term is defined in ... the village of Barrington Hills' Zoning Ordinance,” the court ruled in its unanimous decision.

In layman's terms, the court agreed the village has the authority to regulate agricultural uses in residential areas, Barrington Hills Village President Robert Abboud said.

“I think it's important for everyone to understand that the question that the LeComptes raised is one of a technical matter of our village code,” he said. “There is sort of a perception out there that the operation that the LeComptes were doing was radically out of bounds with the home occupation ordinance and the ordinances of the village. And that's not really true.”

Abboud said after making minor adjustments to their business, such as limiting the hours of the boarding operation from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., the LeComptes came into compliance with the village's zoning code requirements in March.

“In a gross sense, they were not in violation of the village's code or violating its character,” Abboud said. “The question that was raised had to do (with) the authority that the village has to regulate and define the meaning of the word agriculture within this code. And the village prevailed on that issue.”

The dispute over the LeComptes' farm led to the filing this year of another lawsuit, this one from neighbors hoping to halt the boarding operation. Among other things, village residents James Drury and Michael McLaughlin claim the LeComptes made campaign donations to three village trustees and village leaders are now bending over backward to keep the business open.

  A state appeals court has upheld Barrington Hills’ authority to regulate commercial horse boarding operations, like the one at Oakwood Farm on Bateman Road that’s been at the center of three years of legal wrangling. Samantha Bowden/