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Stroick v. Village of West Dundee

March 14, 2001

MATTHEW D. STROICK, AND GLEN DE COSTA, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF WEST DUNDEE, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE (PULTE HOME CORPORATION, INTERVENOR-APPELLEE).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 99--CH--516 Honorable Patrick J. Dixon, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Bowman

This appeal arises from a dispute over the annexation and rezoning of a parcel of land located in unincorporated Kane County. Plaintiffs, Matthew Stroick and Glen De Costa, filed suit in an effort to block defendant, the Village of West Dundee (West Dundee), from annexing and rezoning the property, thereby preventing the development of the property by intervenor, Pulte Home Corporation (Pulte). Following a bench trial, the circuit court of Kane County entered judgment in favor of West Dundee and dismissed plaintiffs' first amended complaint with prejudice. Plaintiffs appeal from the trial court's order, arguing that (1) West Dundee may not annex the property under the "forest preserve exception" to the annexation statute, and (2) the trial court incorrectly determined that West Dundee legally rezoned the property.

The property at issue consists of 239 acres of unimproved land located east of Randall Road, south of Route 72, and west of Sleepy Hollow Road. It is contiguous to the Village of Sleepy Hollow (Sleepy Hollow) on the south and east sides and the City of Elgin on the west side. The property is separated from West Dundee by an approximately 130-acre parcel of land that the parties refer to as the Schweitzer property. Plaintiff Stroick resides in Sleepy Hollow, adjacent to the subject property. Plaintiff De Costa is a resident of West Dundee who lives about one-half mile from the subject property.

In April 1997, Pulte contracted to purchase the property from Galvin Partnership. The contract was conditioned upon West Dundee annexing and rezoning the property. Pulte planned to build homes on most of the property, and offices and commercial buildings on a portion of the property.

Late in May and early in June 1999, Galvin Partnership and Pulte filed petitions to annex and rezone the property. On May 14, 1999, West Dundee and Pulte published notice of a public hearing for the proposed rezoning in the Daily Herald newspaper. The notice did not correctly describe the property. The next day, a new notice was published, which contained two legal descriptions of the property. One of the descriptions was accurate, and the other one was the same inaccurate description that had been published the previous day. The new notice did not indicate which description was the correct one.

West Dundee also mailed notices of the public hearing to those persons who, according to the county tax collector's records, resided within 250 feet of the property. When more than one name appeared on the tax collector's records for a particular property, West Dundee sent notice to only one of the named individuals. Thus, plaintiffs alleged, 70 individuals whose names were in the tax collector's records were not sent notice of the public hearing. Both plaintiffs attended and participated in the public hearing.

On July 1, 1999, West Dundee passed ordinances annexing and rezoning the property. West Dundee annexed the property pursuant to section 7--1--1 of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/7--1--1 (West 1998)), which provided, in relevant part:

"Except in counties with a population of more than 500,000 but less than 3,000,000, territory which is not contiguous to a municipality but is separated therefrom only by a forest preserve district may be annexed to the municipality pursuant to Sections 7- -1--7 or 7--1--8 ***." 65 ILCS 5/7--1--1 (West 1998).

Prior to the annexation and rezoning, plaintiffs filed a verified motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary and permanent injunctions and a verified complaint seeking injunctive and declaratory relief. The trial court entered a temporary restraining order but, following a hearing, denied the motion for a preliminary injunction. After the annexation, plaintiffs filed an amended complaint that added an action against West Dundee in quo warrantor and also sought declaratory and injunctive relief.

At trial, plaintiffs argued that West Dundee's annexation was invalid because the Schweitzer property, which separated the subject property from West Dundee, was not a "forest preserve district." Plaintiffs asserted that the Kane County Forest Preserve District (district) did not follow proper procedures for accepting conveyance of the Schweitzer property.

The evidence showed that Emily Schweitzer transferred title to the district by a quitclaim deed that was dated August 29, 1990, and recorded on September 19, 1990. The conveyance was subject to the reservation of a life estate for Schweitzer's benefit. The deed also incorporated certain perpetual conservation restrictions. In addition to the deed, Schweitzer and district president Phil Elfstrom signed a "Conservation and Preservation Agreement," which provided in part that the district could not possess or control the property while Schweitzer was still alive.

Schweitzer did not want anyone to know about the conveyance while she was alive. Accordingly, when the district's executive committee met, Elfstrom advised the committee of a large donation of land but did not identify the land or the donor. Because of the requirement that the conveyance remain secret, the committee did not vote on whether to accept the donation of the Schweitzer property.

The trial court also heard evidence on whether the district ever met with the mayors or village presidents of the surrounding communities regarding the acquisition of the Schweitzer property. Elfstrom testified that he had no recollection of doing so. The village presidents of Sleepy Hollow and Carpentersville and the village manager of West Dundee testified that they had no record or recollection of any such meeting. Steven Sullivan, the district's attorney, testified that he advised the district that it was required to meet with the corporate authorities of the municipalities within 1½ miles of the Schweitzer property. Sullivan was not aware of any records of such meetings.

Plaintiffs also presented evidence regarding whether West Dundee would be able to provide utilities and sanitary and safety services to the subject property. Because plaintiffs have not appealed the court's findings on ...


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