APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Vermilion County; the Hon.
WILLIAM J. SUNDERMAN, Judge, presiding.
MR. JUSTICE WEBBER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This appeal lies from an order of the circuit court of Vermilion County dismissing a petition to annex certain territory to the city of Danville. We reverse and remand.
Two basic issues are raised: (1) whether the circuit court committed error in dismissing on the basis of a stipulation of fact about which there is some dispute, and (2) whether an annexation petition, at the time it is circulated, must have attached to it the same description as is attached at the time of filing.
Since there was no evidentiary hearing, the facts must be gleaned from the common law record and the briefs of the parties. As we understand the case, certain property owners and electors of an unincorporated area known as "Central Park" filed a petition with the circuit court of Vermilion County requesting annexation to the city of Danville. The required notice was published and the court after several continuances proceeded to a hearing. It first heard some perimeter objections, and then, in an effort to simplify the proceedings, counsel for the petitioners and the objectors offered a stipulation of facts to the court.
The parties have some quarrel over the exact meaning of the stipulation, but a fair reading of it convinces us that the principal thrust was that the legal description of the territory to be annexed was added to the petition after the signatures were obtained and that the petitions did not have a legal description attached to them at the time of circulation. There was a dispute as to whether the signers were shown a diagram at the time of signing.
The trial court received memoranda of law from the parties and entered a final order reciting in part:
"2. That it was previously stipulated by the parties that when the Petition for annexation was circulated and signed it did not contain or have attached to it a description of the territory to be annexed;
3. That the failure to have a description attached to the Petition when it was circulated and signed renders the Petition defective."
The parties admit that this is a case of first impression and that no Illinois authority exists on the precise point, viz., the necessity for a description to be included with an annexation petition at the time of circulation and signing. The answer must be found in the statutes themselves, which are sections 7-1-1 through 7-1-4 of the Municipal Code (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 24, pars. 7-1-1 through 7-1-4).
Since these statutes are quite lengthy, it would overburden this opinion to recite them in full. A summary of the statutory scheme will therefore be used.
The annexation process may be initiated either by a written petition of the majority of the property owners and of a majority of the electors residing in the area, or by the enactment of an ordinance by the corporate authorities expressing their desire to annex. The petition or ordinance is then filed with the circuit clerk of the county in which the territory is located, and provisions are made for notice and hearing. The petition shall request that the annexation question be submitted to the corporate authorities; the ordinance shall request that the question be submitted to the electors in the area. No petitioner has the right to withdraw except by the consent of the majority of the other petitioners or by showing that his signature was obtained by fraud or misrepresentation.
Section 7-1-3 of the Municipal Code reads as follows:
"After the filing of the petition but not less than 5 days prior to the date fixed for the hearing, any interested person may file with the circuit clerk his objections (1) that the territory described in the petition or ordinance, as the case may be, is not contiguous to the annexing municipality, (2) that the petition is not signed by the requisite number of electors or property owners of record, (3) that the description of the territory contained in the petition or ordinance, as the case may be, is inadequate, or (4) that the objector's land is located on the perimeter of such territory, that he does not desire annexation, and that exclusion of his land will not destroy the contiguity of such described property with the annexing municipality." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 24, par. 7-1-3.
Then follow requirements for a hearing on the petition or ordinance. Section 7-1-4 directs that a hearing shall first be held on the ...