35-acre horse farm, one of the largest remaining privately owned estates in Wheaton, could be sold – Chicago Tribune

A 34.9-acre horse farm on Wheaton’s south side that is the largest remaining privately owned estate in or around Wheaton is in play, with the DuPage County Forest Preserve District seeking to buy the land, and area homebuilders having been asked for bids.
In recent weeks, the Bolger family, which owns the Gladstone Ridge horse farm on Leask Lane in Wheaton, asked area homebuilders for bids to develop the property. And on Tuesday, the Forest Preserve District’s board voted unanimously to authorize district staff to pursue negotiations with the Bolger family to buy the horse farm.
While no purchase price has yet been determined, some recently developed subdivisions in the immediate vicinity have sold for between $275,000 and close to $500,000 an acre, suggesting that the Bolger family could expect to reap between about $10 million and $17 million for the land from a developer.
One of the horse farm’s owners, attorney Shawn Bolger, declined to comment to Elite Street on the farm’s status. However, she told Forest Preserve District commissioners at their Tuesday meeting that the district’s move to negotiate to buy her family’s land was “a surprise.”
“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,” she told commissioners. “Please value the rights of our private property and practice open communication.” Forest preserve districts use condemnation to purchase land through eminent domain.
District President Daniel Hebreard told Elite Street that the key reason the district wants the Bolger property is that “it borders our Danada Forest Preserve and it also borders the Morton Arboretum, which makes it strategically important for open space in DuPage County.”
“It’s one exciting piece of property, and (this) was unanimously approved by the board,” he said. “We’re looking forward to responsibly continuing to pursue it.”
This isn’t the first time that the Forest Preserve District has sought to purchase the land. Forest officials targeted the Bolgers’ property for purchase in 1988 and again in 1998. However, then-owners Vincent Bolger, who died in 2008, and Helen Bolger, who died in 2006, weren’t interested in selling or agreeing to a conservation easement that would have prevented them from developing the land.
In January 1999, the Forest Preserve District rebuffed the Bolgers’ offer to sell the agency a 32-foot-wide strip of land to create a trail, and officials began discussing condemnation proceedings. The Bolgers responded with a vigorous and sophisticated public relations campaign, including a website, mailings and bringing supporters to meetings. In March 1999, the district dropped plans to buy the farm.
Forest Preserve District officials haven’t yet said publicly if they would consider using condemnation powers to acquire the farm now if they are unable to reach an agreement with the Bolger family. And Wheaton officials said that they have not yet been approached by a developer seeking to develop the Bolgers’ land.
The horse farm has a one-story, 4,480-square-foot house that was built in 1955.
Bob Goldsborough is a freelance reporter.
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