APPEAL from the Circuit Court of McHenry County; the Hon.
LEONARD BRODY, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE NASH DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is a disconnection proceeding commenced by the petitioner, Sun Electric Corporation (Sun Electric), in which it seeks to disconnect 91 acres of land owned by it from defendant, Village of Prairie Grove (Prairie Grove) in McHenry County. The trial court held that a statutory requisite for disconnection had not been met and dismissed the petition. Sun Electric appeals from that order.
The relevant statute, section 7-3-6 of the Illinois Municipal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 24, par. 7-3-6), provides, in part, that:
"The owner or owners of record of any area of land consisting of one or more tracts, lying within the corporate limits of any municipality may have such territory disconnected which (1) is not contiguous in whole or in part to any other municipality; (2) contains 20 or more acres; (3) is not subdivided into municipal lots and blocks; (4) is located on the border of the municipality; (5) if disconnected, will not result in the isolation of any part of the municipality from the remainder of the municipality, (6) if disconnected, the growth prospects and plan and zoning ordinances, if any, of such municipality will not be unreasonably disrupted, (7) if disconnected, no substantial disruption will result to existing municipal service facilities, such as, but not limited to, sewer systems, street lighting, water mains, garbage collection and fire protection, (8) if disconnected the municipality will not be unduly harmed through loss of tax revenue in the future. The procedure for disconnection shall be as follows:
The owner or owners of record of any such area of land shall file a petition in the circuit court of the county where the land is situated, alleging facts in support of the disconnection. * * * If the court finds that the allegations of the petition are true and that the area of land is entitled to disconnection it shall order the specified land disconnected from the designated municipality. If the circuit court finds that the allegations contained in the petition are not true, the court shall enter an order dismissing the petition."
The parties agreed by their pleadings that all the requirements of the disconnection statute had been met, except for subsections (6) and (8), and these, then, raised the only contested issues before the trial court. Following an evidentiary hearing, the trial court held that the requirements of subsection (6) were met in that disconnection would not unreasonably disrupt the growth prospects and plan and zoning ordinances of the village, but dismissed the petition on the ground that the requirement of subsection (8) was not met in that the village would be unduly harmed through loss of tax revenues in the future by the disconnection.
On appeal Sun Electric contends the trial court's holding that the village would be unduly harmed through loss of tax revenues in the future is against the manifest weight of the evidence.
Sun Electric owns approximately 91 acres located on the southeast border of Prairie Grove, upon which is located its manufacturing plant and offices. The village was incorporated in 1973 and is substantially undeveloped, having few residences or commercial establishments within the corporate limits. It provides no sewer, water or fire service or other similar municipal facilities, but does undertake to maintain its roads, which are unpaved and in need of repair. The principal village expenditures are for legal services and road maintenance. Its only capital expenditure since incorporation was the financed purchase of a truck to be used for road maintenance. Other equipment purchases were being considered by the village board at the time of the hearing and the construction of a garage to house its equipment had also been discussed. An audit for the most recently completed fiscal year, 1975, disclosed that after expenditures of $30,379 for that year the total village funds were left with a deficit balance of $3,841.
Philip J. Butzen, an attorney and real estate broker who is president of Urban Economics, Ltd., was called by Sun Electric to testify as an expert witness and give his opinion as to whether the disconnection of Sun Electric's property would unduly harm the village through loss of tax revenues in the future. The village made no objection to Butzen's qualifications and he testified that the methodology employed by him in formulating his opinion on this matter included collecting data from various local and State governmental agencies, interviewing village officials and reviewing audits of the village for the fiscal years ended April 30, 1974, and April 30, 1975, along with reports filed by it with the State of Illinois Comptroller's Office. As a part of his research and analysis, Butzen prepared several tables demonstrating different views of the financial position of the village and the relative importance of the tax revenues derived from Sun Electric to the village projected into future years.
Based on his research and analysis Butzen testified that in his opinion Prairie Grove would not be unduly harmed by the disconnection of the Sun property through loss of tax revenues in the future. In reaching this conclusion he relied, in part, on the projection in one of his tables that while revenues from the taxation of Sun Electric would amount to approximately 26% of all revenues available to the village for the fiscal year ending April 30, 1976, the percentage share of the total revenues received from Sun Electric would decline to about 12.45% by the end of the fiscal year 1981 and would be further reduced in subsequent years. It was his opinion that this loss of revenue, if the disconnection were allowed, would not unduly harm the village.
In addition, Butzen testified there were other sources of revenue available to replace the monies which would be lost to the village by the Sun Electric disconnection. These other sources could include a levy for municipal auditing purposes, a corporate bridge and street tax levy, and a vehicle license tax. He stated that implementation of each of these revenue sources would require only corporate action and could be imposed immediately without referendum. In addition, he stated that because road maintenance and repair was the main expenditure of the village it might be a wise procedure in the future for the village to have any special road improvements paid for in part by special assessment of the benefitted property owners rather than entirely by the municipality, and thus reduce the financial burden of the village. No contrary evidence was submitted by Prairie Grove to rebut Butzen's opinion that the village would not be unduly harmed by this disconnection.
In its memorandum decision the trial court found that the loss of tax revenue in the future if the disconnection were allowed would unduly harm the village. The court, in considering the tax loss projections made by Butzen, concluded that they were sufficient to preclude disconnection of Sun Electric's property under the statute.
While we will not disturb the trial court's finding as to whether the statutory requirements for disconnection were established by the evidence unless such determination is clearly contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence (Anderson v. City of Rolling Meadows (1956), 10 Ill.2d 54, 58, 139 N.E.2d 199, 201; La Salle National Bank v. Village of Burr Ridge (1967), 81 Ill. App.2d 209, 214, 225 N.E.2d 33, 36), we believe that in the present case the trial court's finding that the village would be unduly harmed through loss of tax revenues in the future by this disconnection has insufficient support in the evidence and must be reversed.
This court has previously considered this same disconnection statute in La Salle National Bank v. Village of Burr Ridge (1967), 81 Ill. App.2d 209, 225 N.E.2d 33, where it was determined that the statute was intended to provide a means for disconnection of land from a municipality if its requirements were met and that it should be given a liberal construction. In addition, it was held that the trial court possesses no discretion to ...