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P. Ex Rel. La Salle N. Bk v. Hoffman Est.





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiff-appellant La Salle National Bank, as trustee under a land trust agreement (hereinafter plaintiff), filed a complaint in quo warrantor that challenged the annexation by defendant Hoffman Estates Park District of a 212-acre parcel of land commonly known as the Poplar Creek Music Theatre. Defendant asserted that plaintiff's action was barred by section 3-14 of the Park District Code, which provides for a one-year statute of limitations. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 105, par. 3-14.) Both sides moved for summary judgment. Defendant's motion was granted on June 8, 1984, when the trial court ruled that the suit was barred by the statute. Plaintiff appealed.

The sole issue presented is whether the trial court was correct in ruling that the suit was barred by the statute of limitations.

The facts are not in dispute. Plaintiff is the legal titleholder of a 212-acre parcel of land. The village of Hoffman Estates annexed the land with plaintiff's cooperation on August 22, 1978. Defendant park district annexed the land on December 16, 1980, when it passed Ordinance No. 109. The ordinance was recorded in the office of the recorder of deeds on December 24, 1980, along with a plat of the parcel.

The purported annexation was to have been effective on December 24, 1980. Assuming that taxes are levied on a calendar-year basis, defendant could have levied a tax only for the seven remaining days of 1980. The first actual notice that plaintiff could have received of the annexation would have been its 1980 tax bill, which would be normally received on or about July 1981. This bill would list the park district as one of the taxing bodies, but the total would have no appreciable impact to alert a taxpayer that the defendant had annexed his land. Nonetheless, the 1980 tax bill is not a part of the record, although later tax bills are included. It is possible that a levy was not made for 1980 and, therefore, the presumed notice of annexation in July 1981 was not actually received.

Ordinance No. 109, which purportedly annexed the land, was passed in a single roll call. The ordinance was comprised of a number of parcels that were identical to the parcels included in the annexation by the village of Hoffman Estates, which is not in dispute. Each of the parcels is less than 120 acres, and Ordinance No. 109 specially provided: "Each parcel shall be considered a separate and distinct annexation of territory to the Hoffman Estates Park District."

As required by statute (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 112, par. 10), plaintiff requested the State's Attorney and the Attorney General to file a quo warrantor action against defendant. When they refused, plaintiff instituted this action on June 11, 1982. Plaintiff was given leave to file its quo warrantor complaint on October 19, 1982.

After a series of motions, affidavits, and depositions, both sides moved for summary judgment. The trial court considered only the statute of limitations issue. It ruled that the limitations period was valid, and it granted defendant's motion for summary judgment. This appeal followed.

In order to have a better understanding of the issue presented in this case, a review of the background and legislative history of pertinent statutory enactments is in order.

Annexations by cities and villages are governed by article 7 of the Illinois Municipal Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 24, par. 7-1-1 et seq.) Under section 7-1-2, annexations can be made by petition, and under sections 7-1-5 and 7-1-6, by referendum. When the annexation is made by petition, a majority of the legal voters residing in, and a majority of the property owners of record within, the territory proposed to be annexed initiate the action. Annexation by referendum is initiated by the corporate authorities, and the proposal is placed on a ballot submitted to the voters at an election. Therefore, whether by petition or referendum, the voters and property owners have notice of the proposed action. Petition and referendum are generally the two basic methods of annexation used by a municipality.

On the other hand, park district annexations are governed by article 3 of the Park District Code. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 105, par. 3-1 et seq.) Like cities and villages, a park district also can annex by petition, section 3-1, or by referendum, section 3-2. By these methods, voters and property owners would have notice.

However, a park district is given additional authority under certain circumstances. In this case, we are concerned with such a situation.

The Hoffman Estates Park District annexed the property owned by plaintiff by authority of section 3-10 of the Park District Code, which does not require notice to the voters or property owners of record. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 105, par. 3-10.) In order to properly identify the issue, it is appropriate to consider the statute of limitations involved, section 3-14 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 105, par. 3-14), and the portion of the statute by which the annexation purports to have been accomplished, section 3-10 (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1983, ch. 105, par. 3-10).

Prior to 1975, there was no statute of limitations dealing with park district annexations. This caused problems when a park district tried to market its municipal securities. Bond counsel and the park districts could never be certain as to the exact assessed value of property within its jurisdiction because they never knew when any annexed territory might be challenged. Bond counsel and the Illinois Association of Park Districts sought and obtained legislative relief. (Senate Debates of the 79th General Assembly, 24th ...

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