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Tuesday, July 9, 2024

In the Zone: Court Upholds Contiguity Determination in Annexation Challenge

An Illinois Appellate Court upheld a ruling in favor of a city finding a 19.5 foot shared boundary between annexed property and the city to meet the contiguity requirements for the annexation to be lawful. Neighbors Opposed to Annexation of Parcels v. City of Joliet

An owner purchased three connected parcels of land, one of which was connected to the city boundaries via a shared boundary with plaintiff’s property. In October 2018, the three parcels owned by the owner were annexed into the city. Plaintiff filed a lawsuit asking the court to invalidate the annexation because he claimed the annexed property was not sufficiently contiguous to the city’s boundary as required by law. Although there was some dispute whether the annexed property abutted the city by 19.5 or 33 feet, the circuit court held that even if the annexed property only bounded the city by 19.5 feet, that was sufficiently contiguous for purposes of satisfying the annexation statute.

On appeal, the plaintiffs argued the circuit court's ruling should be overturned because the court failed to provide reasoning for its ruling that the properties were substantially contiguous to the city, there were issues of disputed facts (i.e., the distance of the contiguity) that should have been decided at trial, and that the properties were not, in fact, contiguous to the city.

First, the appellate court held that it was irrelevant that the trial court failed to provide reasoning for its decision. Second, the appellate court held that although there was some dispute as to the nature of the shared boundary (19.5 versus 33 feet), it was undisputed that the properties shared a boundary with the city of at least 19.5 feet. The appellate court acknowledged there is no set rule for how long a common boundary must be, but agreed with the circuit court that in this case, 19.5 feet was sufficient to satisfy the contiguity requirement of the annexation statute. Although the shared boundary between the city and annexed property was small, the appellate court found that it was parallel and adjacent to the existing municipal boundaries in a way that courts typically found annexed property to be contiguous. Additionally, the annexed property was located in a position that would allow the city to gradually and naturally extend services such as fire and police protection in a manner that favored annexation, and was not the type of strip, corridor, or cornering annexation that courts disfavor. Finally, the appellate court noted that it was not adopting a set standard of 19.5 feet of common boundary to satisfy the contiguity requirement for an annexation, stating that a contiguity determination will depend on the individual circumstances and facts of each case.

Post Authored by Daniel Lev & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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