WOODRIDGE – Suddenly barren and unfamiliar, Charlie Ide looked over the land that supported his family for six decades, the noise of construction equipment rumbling in the background.
The view of his Ide Christmas Tree Farm had changed overnight – literally – as 37,000 trees once destined for warm homes had been pulled and moved off site.
It was a sad and startling sight, but one that served as an important reminder for Ide that with time comes change, and inevitable change should be embraced, not denied.
"It's hard for us. I've been doing this since I was in sixth grade when I started mowing the land. It's going to be a whole different way of life for me," Ide said Friday.
Months of paperwork and negotiations came to an end last week when the Ide family finalized an agreement to sell the 55-acre farm to Pulte Homes, a well-known residential developer with a strong reputation. The family had to sell the property to "pay off an enormous inheritance tax," Ide said.
"We wanted a developer that did things the right way," Ide said. "And I can't believe how much [Pulte] has bent over backwards for us and the people of Woodridge.
"They're going to do a lot of good things here."
Ide was surprised to find how quickly Pulte broke ground on the property – construction equipment cleared the property of its overgrown oak, pine and spruce trees in just a day's work last week. The family had finalized the sales agreement just days prior, Ide said. Yet, proof the property wouldn't sit idle served as validation that the family had chosen correctly from a long list of eager developers.
In addition to building 149 upscale houses – five home models will range from 2,292 to 3,307 square feet with an average price of $400,000 to $500,000 – Pulte will build an eight-acre community park in the subdivision that pays homage to the Ide family with various features, some educational.
The park will also include a memorial to Charlie's late parents, Charles and Juliet, who operated the tree farm for more than 50 years. Charles passed away in 2012 and Juliet this past May.
Pulte will preserve one acre of trees pulled from the property, but the bulk of them have been removed and will be mulched offsite.
Charlie Ide explained why the trees were not salvageable. He said the roots of the trees, left over from last Christmas season, had not been pruned.
"It makes it very unsuitable for digging them up and transplanting them. Plus to transplant a tree at this time of the year is bad news," Ide said, adding that the family is happy with the amount of trees Pulte will preserve.
Charlie Ide and his wife, Janet, will retain their home on the edge of the property. As for their next venture, Charlie Ide said he intends to regroup for awhile before figuring out what's next.
Community support from longtime customers has been uplifting for his family, he said.
"To look out my house one morning and see all green and then the next day it's all gone is hard but we have an enormous amount of people that are emailing us – people who said they had been coming out to the farm for 25 or 35 years – telling us how much they will miss us," he said.
"It really meant a great deal to a lot of people who came out here for their family outings. They came, picked a tree, put it in their house and made traditions."
Ides bid farewell
A message posted on the Ide Tree Farm business website on Thursday reads:
"Our farm is sold for development as of July 8, 2014. No trees are left for Christmas. The Ide Christmas Tree Farm founding owners have passed away. To settle the estate, it was regretfully necessary to sell the farm. As the managers of the business, we sincerely thank all of you who have supported and allowed our business to continue for over 60 years. It was a very good run. We are sorry to leave so many of our loyal friends without a local Christmas Tree Farm. We feel honored to have been a prominent part of your Christmas Holidays. Many blessings to you all. Sincerely, Charlie, Jan, Dave, & Jeff Ide."
Village lauds development
When completed, the Timber's Edge subdivision will be the largest residential construction in Woodridge in more than a decade, according to village officials.
“For nine of the past 10 years, residents ranked new single-family homes as the highest priority for new community housing through the village’s annual Community Needs Survey,” Mayor Gina Cunningham said in a news release. “The Timbers Edge subdivision is a welcome addition to the community that responds to the community’s request.”
Construction of the first phase of the development will take place over the next year. Homes are expected to be available early next year, according to the release.
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