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Thursday, August 13, 2015

Court Considers Library Annexation Dispute

Two libraries got into a dispute regarding the annexation of land located between the two district boundaries. Both library districts took action to annex portions of the land, and then filed suit against the other to have the court determine which district's annexation was valid.  The circuit court ruled that the Geneva library board's annexation of a 500' wide, 4000' long strip of property between the two district boundaries was an invalid "strip" annexation and was legal "gimmickry" or a "sham" because it was intended to block the Batavia library from future annexations. The circuit court also found Batavia's annexation invalid because the initial ordinance contained an incorrect legal description and a later attempt to "correct" it was impermissible. Both libraries appealed, and the appellate court issued its ruling last week in People ex rel Geneva Public Library District v. Batavia Public Library District, 2015 IL App (2d) 100674-U.

First, the appellate court rejected Batavia's argument that Geneva's annexation violated state statute because it was a sham, strip annexation and Geneva's purpose for annexing the land was improper. The appellate court held that the library district's reason, purpose, or motivation for annexing land is not relevant, nor can it be the basis for an annexation challenge. The court acknowledged that some cases involving municipal annexations had looked to the municipal intent, but distinguished those cases because the municipal annexation statute differs from the library annexation statute.

The appellate court also rejected Batavia's argument that the annexation was an invalid strip annexation. The annexed land was 500 feet in depth and approximately 4,000 feet in length. The court noted that 250 foot wide "strip annexations" had been upheld in previous cases, and this particular annexation involved land twice as deep.

Third, the court noted that Geneva had statutory authority to annex the land as it was contiguous to the library district, and the library had followed the statutory procedures for annexing the land.

As a result, the appellate court reversed the circuit court's ruling that Geneva's annexation was improper.

The court next addressed Batavia's appeal of the circuit court's ruling that its own annexation was invalid. While acknowledging that its first annexation ordinance contained an inaccurate legal description, it argued that the library director corrected the description by removing 100 acres from the ordinance and re-recorded the ordinance, curing the defect. The court held that the library director had no authority to modify a previously approved ordinance without the board of trustees authorizing or approving the modification. The appellate court agreed, finding that the correction was neither minimal or ministerial, and the director had no authority to change an ordinance enacted by the board.

Thus, the appellate court affirmed the circuit court's ruling that Batavia's annexation was improper.

The appellate court then remanded the case back to the circuit court, and noted that the parties still had an opportunity to make proper challenges to the ordinances.

Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf


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