When it launched in Grayslake in the early 1990s, Prairie Crossing was a pioneering eco-friendly subdivision, with homes set amid a broad buffer of natural land, a historical barn preserved as a community center and a working organic farm where residents could grow their own crops.
One big wrinkle: The development sat next to a smelly garbage dump.
So Prairie Crossing's builder, George Ranney Jr., cut a deal with the landfill owner to provide a safety net for homeowners: If, when they decided to sell their homes, they couldn't find a buyer within a reasonable amount of time, the landfill would buy them for the original purchase price plus an allowance for inflation.
As a result, USA Waste, which later acquired Waste Management and took its name, became the largest homeowner in Prairie Crossing, buying 50 of the 359 houses over the next two decades.
Now the company is getting ready to cash out completely. The Houston-based trash titan has hired Sheldon Good & Co. to sell the 29 single-family homes it still owns in a June 9 auction.