Officials say they didn’t know religious group was behind land buy until after it was completed

South Barrington Park District officials didn’t learn a religious group was behind the winning bid for 34 acres of public parkland until two weeks after the $2.3 million sale was finalized, they revealed Tuesday.

A limited liability company called Area N Development was the winning bidder for the land at Bartlett Road and Route 59, a wooded spot known to many as Area N, during a Feb. 28 auction. The park district closed the deal on March 7.

Area N Development was created in Delaware about a week before the auction, public records show. It wasn’t until March 22 that Schaumburg-based Fourth Avenue Gospel, which is owned and operated by members of the Plymouth Brethren Christian Church and was behind a failed effort to acquire the property in 2023, publicly admitted it invented Area N Development to buy the land.

Park District Director Jay Morgan on Tuesday said he didn’t discover the buyer’s true identity until reading about it in the Daily Herald.

“I was on vacation on March 22 when I heard the (buyer) was actually the church,” Morgan said in an email. “This was the first knowledge I had as to the new owners of the property.”

Morgan said he’s had no contact with the church members.

A house of worship and a school are planned for the property, according to a website created by the Plymouth Brethren congregation called That was the plan last year, too.

The congregation deliberately waited to disclose it was behind the purchase until after the sale closed and it was ready to begin talking with village officials about zoning requirements, member Russell McAbery has said.

An architectural rendering of a church and school proposed for 34 acres of undeveloped land in South Barrington. Courtesy of Area N Development LLC

Fourth Avenue Gospel was the only bidder for the property at an initial auction in May 2023, offering about $1.7 million. Park district voters had directed parks leaders to sell the land the previous month, with proceeds to be used to improve existing parks.

Dozens of area residents protested the deal after the first auction. Opponents cited traffic, the proposed use of the land and some of the Plymouth Brethren's practices among their concerns.

Ultimately, the park district board voted to cancel the sale and hold a new auction.

There were two bidders at the Feb. 28 event, and Area N Development came out on top. The park district board approved the sale that night, and the closing followed about a week later.

At the time, park district officials insisted they didn’t know who was behind Area N Development.

When asked about the congregation’s initial secrecy about its role in the land deal, park district board President Pete Perisin said the auction winner is “free to conduct their own business however they’d like.”

Perisin said he’s happy with how the auction was run and the results.

“(I) look forward to using those funds to immediately start the process of updating all of our parks and facilities,” he said.

The 34-acre site called “Area N” is at Bartlett Road and Route 59. Courtesy of South Barrington

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