Horizon Farms to reopen this summer; legal challenge looming

  • The Forest Preserves of Cook County hopes to reopen Horizon Farms to the public in May, after a judge this month lifted a court order barring public access to the 400-acre site in Barrington Hills. However, litigation between the forest preserve and the farm's former owners remains ongoing.

      The Forest Preserves of Cook County hopes to reopen Horizon Farms to the public in May, after a judge this month lifted a court order barring public access to the 400-acre site in Barrington Hills. However, litigation between the forest preserve and the farm's former owners remains ongoing. Mark Welsh | Staff Photographer, 2009

 
By Doug Graham
dgraham@dailyherald.com
Posted3/29/2016 5:30 AM

After legal disputes forced its abrupt closure just months after opening last year, Horizon Farms in Barrington Hills is expected to reopen to the public sometime after May 2, Forest Preserves of Cook County officials said.

The 400-acre estate has long been the subject of a legal fight between the forest preserve district and former owners Richard Kirk Cannon and Meryl Squires Cannon, who claim the county unlawfully acquired the property through a $14.5 million foreclosure sale with BMO Harris Bank.

 

After it opened to the public last summer, a Cook County judge ordered the site at 311 Algonquin Road closed in September, in response to a lawsuit alleging the forest preserve district breached a lease the Cannons had with a management company called Royalty Farms LLC.

Forest preserve spokeswoman Staci Stagner said the judge this month vacated all restrictions regarding public access to the site and ordered Royalty Farms LLC off the property by no later than May 2.

"We are pleased with the court's decision," Stagner said. "We look forward to fully reopening this site for the public's enjoyment as soon as possible; we believe this property adds a lot of value to our holdings and the area."

Norman Lerum, an attorney for Royalty Farms LLC, said Monday that the Cannons will ask the judge to reconsider the decision this week. Some of the horses on the farm are pregnant and can't be moved to another location, he added.

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Royalty Farms LLC consists of Meryl Squires Cannon, investors from Florida and several employees who take care of the horses at Horizon Farms, which the forest preserve is now calling Horizon Farm.

Lerum said there were settlement talks between the two sides last year but they were unable to reach an out-of-court agreement.

"It would be nice to restart those talks," he said. "Hopefully we could rekindle that."

When the Cannons owned the estate, it was a horse racing operation, with 20 horse paddocks, several barns and a training track. The property had a main house, a guesthouse, a bunk house, a staff apartment building and a duplex.

The forest preserve district opened it to the public early last summer, with about four miles of multiuse trails. Some parts of the property remained off-limits while improvements were being made.

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