Future of Lake in the Hills horse property in question

LAKE IN THE HILLS – A woman who leased the horse stable portion of a village property on Pyott Road is looking to leave her rental agreement, Lake in the Hills officials said.

Jennifer Valenti, who runs Dynasty Farm Inc., has asked to leave the 9.5 acres of property at 1109 Pyott Road. In January, she agreed to a two-year lease.

From February through May, she was able to live on the property and operate her business rent free. From June through September, rent is set to be $1,000 a month. From October through January, rent is scheduled to be $1,500 a month. Rent for the second year of the lease is scheduled to be $2,000 a month.

In the past, the village received $4,000 a month in rent at the village-owned barn, Village Administrator Gerald Sagona said.

Sagona said Valenti's expenditures are greater than her revenues. The $1,000 in rent would not be enough to bridge the gap. Valenti has given six months' notice that she wants to vacate the barn, Sagona said.

Sagona said the number of people expected to board horses in the barn did not come in as planned. The village again is trying to market the property.

Equestrian businesses had operated at the facility from 2002 until February 2012, when the barn became vacant.       

In exchange for the reductions in rent, Valenti agreed to make repairs and improvements to the stalls within the facility. Work on the facility was expected to cost between $50,000 and $100,000, Valenti had said.

There are residents asking the village to do what it can to save the barn. Denise Fincutter lives across the street from the Pyott Road facility. She said she boards a horse at Dynasty.

"It wasn't nice seeing it when it was rundown and vacant for a long time, and when Dynasty came in, we were thrilled," Fincutter said. "A lot of people in the neighborhood are thrilled that work is being done, and they don't have to look at so much of an eyesore."

Timothy Hedrick helped refurbish the interior of the barn to make it functional. He said there has been work at the barn by nonprofit organizations to help children with special needs have therapeutic horse riding.

"I want Lake in the Hills to benefit from this, but I also want kids that have these needs to benefit from it, too," Hedrick said.

He's asked the village to help figure out a way to try to keep it going, whether it be fundraisers or finding someone else to take over the lease.

Hedrick said a fully refurbished place could attract large horse shows where people from out of town would spend money.

"It's either going to be an eyesore or it's going to be functional," Hedrick said. "We're trying to make it functional."

Hedrick said more than $20,000 has been invested in the building.

Village President Paul Mulcahy said the village invested a lot of money to clean it up and do minor repairs after the property became unexpectedly vacant.

"All the good things said tonight about horses ... I think everybody up here agrees," Mulcahy said. "That's why we decided to try to find a new tenant and make something workable."

Public works employees also have been helping on the property since Valenti moved in, Mulcahy said.

He said Valenti was involved in the lease negotiations.

"I'm not sure what the answer is here," Mulcahy said.

Trustee Stephen Harlfinger said the barn was designed for a few horses when it was a working farm, and the building is in poor shape.

"It's going to cost a chunk of money to get that thing up to the standards you're used to," Harlfinger said. "What you're used to at the previous facilities you've had is not what that barn was actually really designed for."

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