Why land at center of fight in South Barrington could be headed to auction again

Thirty-four acres of undeveloped land that South Barrington Park District officials planned to sell to a religious group until a public protest erupted could be headed back to auction.

The parks board will meet Wednesday night to discuss scheduling another auction for the property at Bartlett Road and Route 59.

The meeting is set for 7:30 p.m. at the South Barrington Community Center, 3 Tennis Club Lane.

The land once was a privately owned tree nursery. The park district bought it in 2003 as part of a legal settlement with a real estate developer.

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

Park district voters in April approved a plan to sell the site at auction. Up to three auctions are possible.

A Schaumburg-based nonprofit group called Fourth Avenue Gospel Building Inc. was the lone bidder for the property at a May auction, offering to pay about $1.7 million.

Fourth Avenue, which is owned and operated by a suburban congregation of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church, wanted to build a house of worship and a school there.

Dozens of residents protested against the sale once the potential buyer was identified this summer, and eventually the deal was canceled.

A different developer's plan to build houses on the land foundered in 2021.

On Wednesday, the parks board will discuss a potential date for another auction, said Jay Morgan, the district's executive director.

A Fourth Avenue spokesman couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Also Wednesday, the board will discuss whether it should borrow money and increase the district's property-tax rate to pay for parks improvements.

"The park district hasn't asked the residents for permission to sell bonds in over 25 years, so we are unsure where that will lead us," Morgan said.

Officials don't have a sum in mind yet and don't know what the potential impact on taxpayers would be, Morgan said.

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The South Barrington Park District wants to sell 34 acres of undeveloped land sometimes called "Area N." Courtesy of South Barrington
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