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07/20/94 PETITION VILLAGE VERNON HILLS TO TRANSFER

July 20, 1994

IN RE PETITION OF THE VILLAGE OF VERNON HILLS TO TRANSFER TERRITORY OF THE VERNON FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT TO THE COUNTRYSIDE FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT (THE VILLAGE OF VERNON HILLS, PETITIONER-APPELLEE,
v.
VERNON FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, OBJECTOR-APPELLANT; COUNTRYSIDE FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, RESPONDENT-AFFECTED DISTRICT; STEPHEN T. KLEIN, OBJECTOR).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 92-MC-15. Honorable Jack Hoogasian Judge, Presiding.

Petition for Leave to Appeal Allowed December 6, 1994.

Quetsch, Bowman, Colwell

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Quetsch

JUSTICE QUETSCH delivered the opinion of the court:

The objector, the Vernon Fire Protection District, appeals following the denial of its post-judgment motion, arguing that the statute under which the trial court ordered the transfer of a certain portion of its fire protection district to another district was unconstitutional. We agree with the objector; we reverse and remand with directions.

In this cause, the petitioner, the Village of Vernon Hills (Village), sought to disconnect certain territory of the objector, the Vernon Fire Protection District (Objector), and transfer it to the respondent, the Countryside Fire Protection District (Countryside), which also provided fire protection to the Village. The Village relied on the disconnection provisions of section 14.14 of the Fire Protection District Act (Act) (70 ILCS 705/14.14 (West 1992) (formerly Ill. Rev. Stat. 1991, ch. 127 1/2, par. 34.14, added by Pub. Act 87-825, § 4, eff. Dec. 16, 1991)).

The Vernon Fire Protection District, the principal objector below and appellant here, initially sought unsuccessfully. to dismiss the Village's petition pursuant to section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9)(West 1992)), arguing that the statute was unconstitutional as a special or local law which, by its own terms, was applicable only to a county having a population of between 500,000 and 750,000, namely, Lake County, Illinois. The Objector relied on In re Belmont Fire Protection District (1986), 111 Ill. 2d 373, 95 Ill. Dec. 521, 489 N.E.2d 1385.

On October 14, 1992, concluding that the statute was constitutional, the circuit court denied the Objector's amended motion to dismiss the petition and set an evidentiary hearing on the Village's petition to transfer the territory to Countryside. (Stephen T. Klein, who appeared in the proceedings after the denial of the Objector's motion and ostensibly represented the interests of some residents of the territory opposed to the transfer, played a limited role as an objector and is not a party to this appeal.)

On October 30, 1992, the Objector filed its "Objection to Petition to Transfer Territory" again arguing that the statute was unconstitutional special legislation. Evidentiary hearings were conducted on November 6, November 24, and December 11, 1992, following which the trial court granted the relief sought by the Village to transfer the territory. On January 13, 1993, the trial court denied Objector's post-judgment motion which again urged that the statute in question was unconstitutional special legislation.

Objector filed this timely appeal, again challenging section 14.14 of the Act as unconstitutional special legislation. The statute in question reads:

"(a) In a county having a population of between 500,000 and 750,000, territory within the boundaries of a non-home rule municipality that receives fire protection services from more than a single fire protection district may be disconnected from one fire protection district and transferred to the district that provides services to the area comprising more than 80% of the municipality's assessed valuation. To disconnect that territory, the board of trustees of one of the affected districts, the corporate authorities of the municipality, or 5% of the owners of property within the territory to be disconnected may file a petition in the court in which the district (from which disconnection is sought) was organized, setting forth the following:

(1) The description of the territory sought to be transferred.

(2) A statement that:

(A) more than 80% of the assessed valuation of the municipality lies within one district;

(B) more than 90% of the residents of the municipality reside within ...


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