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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Cook County Recommends Annexation of Unincorporated Areas

A task force formed by Cook County President Toni Preckwinkle recently issued a report recommending that  all unincorporated areas of Cook County be eventually annexed into existing municipalities.  The report concluded that the costs of continuing to provide "municipal"-type services to unincorporated areas strains county financial resources, which reduces the available funds for the county's primary functions of providing health care and criminal justice to county residents.  The goal is to encourage municipalities to annex unincorporated parcels so these properties will receive local policing, code enforcement, and other services from municipalities rather than the county. 

A press release issued by President Preckwinkle summarizes the following goals in the report: 

  • Encourage municipalities to annex unincorporated parcels with less than 100 residents, with a specific focus on parcels smaller than 60 acres.
  • Improve code enforcement, particularly within densely populated unincorporated areas. Substandard building conditions, particularly in large, multi-family housing developments, currently represent a significant barrier to annexation.
  • Review the allocation and categorization of Sheriff’s Police expenses to better define what police services are only provided in unincorporated Cook County and those that are provided County-wide.
  • Seek funding from local foundations and other resources to create an implementation team that would execute the strategies from the report.
  • Shift the annexation push to parcels with more than 100 residents and/or larger than 60 acres. This will require case-by-case considerations and negotiations with both municipalities and residents.
  • Create fee-for service models and otherwise adjust current revenue streams to fully cover the costs of providing services to unincorporated Cook County.
  • Where annexation proves to be infeasible, explore entering into intergovernmental agreements with adjoining municipalities for police patrol, code enforcement, and other services.
  • Ensure that no new major construction occurs in unincorporated areas that does not meet common municipal standards.
There are existing statutory procedures that allow a municipality to involuntarily annex properties without resident consent, provided certain statutory requirements are met.  However, under current state law, there is no statute that would force a municipality to annex adjacent property.   Because implementation of this report will have a long term impact on the finances, local infrastructure, and land use goals of those municipalities that surround or partially surround one or more unincorporated areas or properties, there will need to be some level of cooperation and interest from the annexing municipalities to move forward with the County's goals. 

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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