Suburban Chicago horse farm could be put to pasture

Largest private estate in Wheaton could be sold

(Gladstone Ridge Farm, iStock)
(Gladstone Ridge Farm, iStock)

The owners of a 35-acre horse farm in suburban Wheaton, the town’s largest private estate, have a simple answer for a group that wants to buy and preserve the land: Neigh.

The DuPage County Forest Preserve District this week voted to negotiate with the farm’s long-time owners, the Bolger family, the Chicago Tribune reported. They’ve tried to buy the Gladstone Ridge farm twice before, in 1988 and 1998. Each time, then-owners Vincent Bolger and Helen Bolger refused to sell or agree to an easement that would block development.

The vote came as the farm’s owners have asked local homebuilders for bids to develop the land. While a price hasn’t been determined, nearby subdivisions have recently sold for $275,000 to $500,000 an acre, meaning the land could be valued at as much as $17 million.

Its decision was a surprise, Shawn Bolger, one of the farm’s owners, told preserve commissioners, according to the Tribune.

“We have not expressed an interest in selling the property to the Forest Preserve (District) and hope you are not of a mind to condemn our property,” Bolger said. “Please value the rights of our private property and practice open communication.”

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Forest preserve districts use condemnation to purchase land through eminent domain. District President Daniel Hebreard said the district is interested in the horse farm because its borders on the Danada Forest Preserve and the Morton Arboretum. Officials haven’t said whether they’ll use condemnation powers to acquire the farm.

“It’s one exciting piece of property, and (this) was unanimously approved by the board,” Hebreard told the Tribune. “We’re looking forward to responsibly continuing to pursue it.”

In 1999, the preserve denied the Bolgers’ offer to sell the agency a 32-foot-wide strip of land to create a trail. The preserve considered condemning the property but the family staged a public relations campaign, including a website and mailings, that defeated the plan.

The farm has a one-story, 4,480-square-foot house built in 1955.

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[Chicago Tribune] – Harrison Connery

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