After 8-year fight, judge says Barrington Hills horse boarding law is constitutional

A Cook County judge has called constitutional a Barrington Hills ordinance permitting commercial horse boarding as a home-occupation business in the historically equestrian-friendly village, rejecting claims of corruption.

The 8-year-old litigation that resulted in a 21-day trial was born of a neighbor dispute that dominated local politics in Barrington Hills for a time about a dozen years ago.

"I believe it vindicates a number of people," said attorney James Kelly, who represented a party of intervenors in plaintiff Jim Drury's lawsuit against the village. "I think it was a good decision."

Drury - who lives next door to Benjamin and Cathleen LeCompte's Oakwood Farms, where a 60-horse commercial boarding operation existed - argued the facility's imposition on his residential peace and quiet clearly was forbidden by existing village code regulating home-occupation businesses in 2011.

Drury tried through lawsuits, newspaper advertisements and official testimony to suggest village officials at that time were refusing to acknowledge this and instead were pandering to the Riding Club of Barrington Hills and other equestrian interests.

While Drury conceded the LeComptes had the right to keep 60 of their own horses on the 130-acre property, he said the number of employees and clients who visited his residential neighborhood most days clearly marked Oakwood Farms as a commercial enterprise.

In claiming political motivations in the village, Drury pointed to $5,000 donations LeCompte made to each of the trustee candidates then-Village President Robert Abboud supported in the 2011 election - Joe Messer, Karen Selman and Patty Meroni.

That money was returned to LeCompte when the State Board of Elections determined he had not been properly identified by the candidates as the original source of the funding.

The ordinance that's maintained the village's regulation of horse boarding since these arguments was adopted in late 2014 and vetoed by Abboud's successor Martin McLaughlin in early 2015. The majority of trustees then overrode McLaughlin's veto.

In his decision, Judge David B. Atkins rejected the lawsuit's arguments of village conspiracy and corruption being the basis of the ordinance.

"At trial, the court finds this theory collapsed entirely," Atkins wrote.

Kelly said the decision finds the ordinance was properly adopted and made no changes to current policies and practices of the village.

Kelly, along with John J. Pappas Sr., represented the LeComptes as well as fellow intervenors Victoria Kelly and the Barrington Hills Polo Club.

Barrington Hills officials declined to comment Friday, saying the village board has not yet had an opportunity to discuss the judge's decision.

A representative of Drury's legal team also said they had not yet had time to analyze the decision and determine their response.

There is a 30-day window to appeal the decision.

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