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School District Covets Land Owned by Christian College

A school district in the Chicago suburbs is eyeing a 15-acre parcel that belongs to Wheaton College, in Wheaton, Ill., for a new junior high school and has suggested that if the college won’t agree to sell, the district’s Board of Education might try to seize the property.

The Glen Ellyn District 41 newsletter, dated March 13, said that the board would decide at its April 8 meeting whether to make a formal offer on the parcel. “If unable to reach an agreement with the property owner, Wheaton College, the Board of Education may decide to pursue its legal right as a governmental body to purchase the property without the owner’s consent through eminent domain,” the article states.

Wheaton, an evangelical Christian liberal-arts college, said in a news release that it “strongly opposes” the district’s course of action.

“As a private institution, Wheaton College does not have the government’s power to acquire property through eminent domain,” the release said. “Rather, with careful planning and foresight, the college may acquire strategic property only when neighboring owners are willing sellers.”

Wheaton bought the property, which makes up its East Campus, 16 years ago, and the college has told the school district that the land is not for sale.

The property is currently used for faculty art studios, a campus maintenance workshop, and warehouse storage for library archives and equipment. The property also provides space for the Community School of the Arts at Wheaton College, which enrolls 1,700 students each year, and includes fields that are used for sports-team practices and intramural sports. The college also leases space there to Christian ministries that assist local families.

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