It looks like East Dundee is stuck with a pair of feuding families, as it does not appear the village has the authority to de-annex them from town.
According to state law, disconnection cannot begin until the property owner initiates it. The law reads in part that the process starts after the property owners file a petition requesting that the specified territory be disconnected from the municipality.
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This week, East Dundee Village President Jerald Bartels raised eyebrows when he threatened to de-annex Patrick Clarke and his wife, Allison, and their neighbors, former Village President Dan O'Leary and his wife, Julie, from the village. So far, it is estimated that the feud between the couples has involved hundreds of hours of village time and racked up about $2,000 in attorney's fees.
The Clarkes and the O'Learys have been at odds for four years over issues surrounding access to their properties, alleged vandalism and ongoing harassment. The fight has involved the courts, the police department, the village board and even village employees who sift through thousands of documents in response to Freedom of Information Act requests about the two couples.
Bartels said it's time for village leaders to consider handing the problem over to Kane County.
"As a village official, you've got a fiduciary responsibility to the residents in town, and I would say it's not the residents' job to make people get along," Bartels said. "I believe that deannexation is something that should be considered if the problem isn't resolved."
Now that it appears the village can't kick them out of town, Bartels is back to square one.
"The thing that I want to do is stop the drain on village resources," Bartels said. "If (disconnection is) not an option, then we'll have to see what other options can be considered."
The Clarkes and O'Learys live next door to each other in Lakewood Estates, a subdivision that lies in a rural and hilly section of town and overlooks a creek and green space where deer often frolic. However, life has been anything but idyllic for the two couples.
The O'Learys were suing the Clarkes over use of their shared easement, but they have since dropped their suit. The Clarkes are pushing their countersuit, which accuses the O'Learys of eavesdropping and of restricting their access to their shared easement.
Patrick Clarke is also in the midst of fighting three tickets he received -- two for running into the O'Leary property and a third for yelling at Dan O'Leary over his request to get the village to give him a slice o f land he's maintained for years. This has also become the latest battle in their ongoing war.
If the village hands the disputed property to the O'Learys on Monday, the Clarkes are ready to activate their lawsuit against the village.
It doesn't appear that an end is in sight, and neither family is willing to move away.
Dan O'Leary says he'll talk it out with the Clarkes, but only if they initiate the conversation.
"It's got to be them; they're the ones that are aggressive," he said. "They're looking for something. We're saying, 'Leave us alone.'"
Patrick Clarke, meanwhile, would rather leave it to the courts.
"I'm not sure our attorneys would even let us talk about mediation," he said. "Court is a reconciliation and it is forced mediation."