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In re Petition To Annex Certain Territory To The Village of Lemont

Court of Appeals of Illinois, First District, Third Division

December 13, 2017

In re PETITION TO ANNEX CERTAIN TERRITORY TO THE VILLAGE OF LEMONT, ILLINOIS, (The Village of Lemont, an Illinois Municipal Corporation, Intervenor-Appellant; Mid-Iron Club, Inc., Gleneagles Country Club, Inc., Cook Golf Properties, Inc., Pine Meadow Golf Club, Inc. d/b/a Cog Hill, and the Village of Palos Park, an Illinois Municipal Corporation, Objectors-Appellees).

         Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 15 COAN 3 The Honorable Carol A. Kipperman, Judge Presiding.

          JUSTICE LAVIN delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Cobbs and Justice Howse concurred in the judgment and opinion.


          LAVIN, JUSTICE.

         ¶ 1 This appeal involves a dispute between two villages about the annexation of unincorporated territory. Opposing annexation into the village of Lemont are several privately owned golf courses along with the Village of Palos Park, and supporting annexation into Lemont are some residential landowners along with the Village of Lemont. The trial court ultimately granted summary judgment to the golf courses and Palos Park, concluding the golf courses had annexation priority because they had not abandoned their earlier-filed annexation petitions. This then legitimized the annexation of their unincorporated territory to Palos Park. The residential landowners and Lemont now appeal, contending the trial court's summary judgment ruling was erroneous. They also contend the court abused its discretion in denying their motion for a substitution of judge and their motion to extend discovery back before 2015. For the reasons to follow, we affirm.

         ¶ 2 BACKGROUND

         ¶ 3 Several years ago, a wide swath of unincorporated territory in Cook County lay sandwiched between Palos Park and the Village of Lemont. As stated, a dispute arose about whether that territory should have been annexed to Palos Park or the Village of Lemont. In 2015, the golf courses of Gleneagles Country Club, Inc. (Gleneagles), Mid-Iron Club, Inc. (Mid-Iron), [1]and Cog Hill[2] sought to annex their property to Palos Park, with their respective petitions filed in April, February, and March of 2015. The golf courses, together with Ludwig Farms, [3] which filed its petition in 2014, all occupied almost 1, 500 acres of the unincorporated territory. The voluntary annexation petitions fell under section 7-1-8 of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/7-1-8 (West 2014)), which permits the annexation of unincorporated territory to a municipality, provided it is contiguous to that municipality at the time of annexation. Section 7-1-8 states that "[t]he corporate authorities of the municipality to which annexation is sought shall then consider the question of the annexation of the described territory, " and a majority vote is required for annexation. Id.

         ¶ 4 While the 2015 voluntary petitions were pending, the Cook County Forest Preserve and Palos Park meanwhile had entered into an intergovernmental annexation agreement, wherein Palos Park annexed about 190 acres of forest preserve. There was a public meeting in October to discuss the annexation. Palos Park and Lemont public officials, including the mayors, were present. The forest preserve annexation to Palos Park subsequently became final on December 14, 2015, following a public hearing. According to the Palos Park attorney, the forest preserve annexation created actual contiguity between Palos Park and Mid-Iron Golf Club, thus teeing up the annexation of Mid-Iron Golf Club. With a domino-like effect, this then created contiguity to annex Gleneagles, then Cog Hill, and then Ludwig Farms, all to Palos Park. The owner of Gleneagles also attested that the Village of Lemont had positioned itself against the golf courses' annexation due to lack of contiguity, and the annexation of the forest preserve was meant to resolve that matter.

         ¶ 5 In challenging these annexation efforts, on December 11, 2015, some 14 residential landowners, [4] occupying a small percentage of the unincorporated territory, filed what all parties agree is considered a "forcible" or "involuntary" annexation petition under section 7-1-2 of the Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/7-1-2 (West 2014)). They claimed a portion of the Gleneagles property should instead be annexed to Lemont and requested a hearing. The residential landowners sought to have about 117 acres annexed to Lemont. Those residential landowners' property consisted of 7 acres, all of which was, to use golf terminology, out of bounds from the 110-acre golf course. The Village of Lemont later intervened in this case, joining the residential landowners and admitting that Lemont's future planned growth had included Gleneagles and Cog Hill. It is claimed that a valid involuntary petition would have threatened the contiguity that the other golf courses and the farm had with Palos Park, and thus the involuntary petition was a means of thwarting the voluntary annexation petitions.

         ¶ 6 On December 31, 2015, Palos Park objected (see 65 ILCS 5/7-1-3 (West 2014)), noting that the golf courses and Ludwig Farms had already filed voluntary petitions and they were "actively working with Palos Park to complete the annexations" to Palos Park. Palos Park noted that permitting the annexation of the residential landowners' property would lead to the anomalous result of having Gleneagles golf course municipally split in half, with a portion joining Palos Park (or remaining unincorporated) and a portion joining Lemont. Palos Park argued, for example, that Gleneagles' voluntary section 7-1-8 petition had priority over that filed by the residential landowners and that the residential landowners failed to give proper notice of their petition. Palos Park requested that the court dismiss the petition, and Cog Hill, Gleneagles, and Mid-Iron joined in the objection.

         ¶ 7 Pursuant to the landowners' request, on January 7, 2016, the section 7-1-2 hearing was held with the parties present to discuss the December 11 involuntary annexation petition. As discussed in further depth below, Palos Park and the golf courses (collectively, Objectors) requested a continuance based on Palos Park's anticipated adoption of annexation ordinances which was to occur several days later on January 15. The court granted the requested continuance for January 20 over the objection of the landowners (collectively with Lemont, Petitioners).

         ¶ 8 On January 11, the Petitioners filed a motion for a substitution of judge under section 2-1001(a)(2) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-1001(a)(2) (West 2014)), which was denied.

         ¶ 9 On January 15, 2016, Palos Park adopted an annexation ordinance for Mid-Iron and Gleneagles. A month later on February 8, 2016, Palos Park adopted an annexation ordinance for Cog Hill and Ludwig Farms. Although the Objectors had been negotiating a memorandum of agreement for a number of months regarding the water and sewer services of their property, prior to the ordinances going into effect, the golf courses and Ludwig Farms notified Palos Park's attorney that they were waiving the need for an annexation agreement as a precondition to the annexation.

         ¶ 10 The matter proceeded with the parties engaging in discovery. The court granted the Objectors a protective order to limit discovery from January 1, 2015, forward. Objectors then filed a motion for summary judgment, which the court granted, holding the Objectors' earlier-filed 2015 voluntary petitions had priority ...

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