Son: We will not 'destroy' tradition at Sanfilippo mansion
Some Barrington Hills residents are opposing a proposal for a new property zoning classification they contend could lead to an entertainment operation at a mansion known for hosting charitable fundraisers and where guests can see rare collectibles, including the world's largest restored theater pipe organ.
At issue Monday night at a Barrington Hills zoning board of appeals meeting was the home of the late Jasper Sanfilippo, who built his family's nut business into a publicly traded company that had $876 million in sales in 2019. The 38-acre estate on Plum Tree Road long has been a venue for charitable events hosted by the Sanfilippo Foundation.
Sanfilippo's son, Jeffrey, wants Barrington Hills to create the new charitable giving zoning district that could be used for the mansion and the owners of other properties as a way to formally allow nonprofit fundraisers. He now owns and lives on the land, which he said still would be residential with the "overlay" of the charitable giving zoning.
Sanfilippo, who heads the family foundation and has been CEO of John B. Sanfilippo & Son Inc. since 2006, voiced frustration with what he called "misinformation and some outright lies" regarding the proposal that residents emailed to the village since the public hearing's first session in June.
A potential for casino gambling, amusement rides, fireworks and other entertainment were among the residents' concerns about the potential approval of the charitable giving zoning. They also raised the possibility of the 38 acres being removed from the tax rolls, which Sanfilippo said would not happen.
"Our family has been in Barrington Hills for over 50 years," Sanfilippo said during the meeting at Barrington High School. "We love this community. We would not do anything to destroy what the residents of Barrington Hills have enjoyed for the last 50 years. We are not looking for any kind of tax abatement or getting away from paying taxes in the village of Barrington Hills. That is not our intent with this.
"We are not looking to open a gambling casino on the property. We have (casino) machines that are over a hundred years old and we provide nickels and quarters for people to play them as they would have a hundred years ago. That is not a gambling casino."
Zoning panel members will issue a recommendation to the Barrington Hills village board, which gets the final say on issues.
Resident Glenn Aquino was among those who expressed concerns about the family's request.
"I'm sure many of us are supporters of the Art Institute, Field Museum, Shedd Aquarium, etc. but none of these would be appropriate to be situated in Barrington Hills," Aquino wrote. "Although that may be a bit of a stretch, the point here is that this is a residential/equestrian community and the activities currently on the Sanfilippo property are not in compliance and this change most likely would result in an expansion of those types of activities."
Lee Brown, a Teska Associates Inc. land planner hired by the village, testified at the start of the meeting last month that the granting of special-use permits for the Sanfilippo property is preferable to the idea of a charitable giving zoning district. He said a change in zoning would not make the 38 acres tax-exempt.
Jasper Sanfilippo was 88 when he died early this year. His passion for musical instruments and machines helped shape his legacy.
He built an addition to display his collection of automated musical instruments, including music boxes, phonographs, coin-operated pianos and violin machines. The world's largest restored pipe organ is the collection's centerpiece.
Constructed in 1927 for the Riviera Theatre in Omaha, Jasper Sanfilippo had the organ restored to look like the original at Chicago's Paradise Theatre.
In 1997, a carousel building for banquet style fundraisers was added in 1997. Other highlights at the mansion include arcade and gambling machines, chandeliers, street and tower clocks, steam engines and about 2,500 perfume-related artifacts such as bottles and compacts.
Women's and children's organizations were among the first recipients of Jasper and Marian Sanfilippo's generosity in the 1990s, including the Michael Joseph Foundation and St. Anne Parish in Barrington. They gradually expanded their vision to include charities that benefit the arts.
Sanfilippo Foundation Executive Director Greg Eifel said the organization has assisted in raising $16 million over the last 20 years through events at the Plum Tree Road property. He said fundraising events generally occur from March through early December, along with some days for guided tours.