E. Dundee votes to keep disputed land in village hands
The East Dundee village board on Monday said it would not give ex-Village President Dan O'Leary a piece of land on Lake Shore Drive that's adjacent to his property and has become a source of disagreement between him and his next-door neighbors.
The village instead will retain ownership of the land that measures nearly 16,000 square feet.
The land had become the latest battleground in a four-year feud between O'Leary and his wife Julie, and their next door neighbors Patrick and Allison Clarke.
The O'Learys have maintained the land for years and added a retaining wall, lighting, a boulder garden and plantings. They wanted the property because there are stairs on the land that lead to their house.
In a letter dated April 4, 2011, Village President Jerald Bartels gave the O'Learys 30 days to remove the permanent fixtures and plantings that they added to the land. That prompted Dan O'Leary to ask the village to "vacate," or give him the property. Bartels has been opposed to that from day one.
"The concern that I have remains that ... things were constructed in the right of way," Bartels said Monday. "They were constructed without a permit. And now the remedy is to basically vacate the village property and legitimize what's there ... The O'Learys shouldn't be treated any differently than anyone else in town."
The Clarkes already are countersuing the O'Learys over access to their shared easement and are due in court in October on that matter. Patrick Clarke also is fighting three tickets against him related to the dispute — for yelling at Dan O'Leary about the land and for reckless driving. Those tickets will be heard later this month.
The Clarkes fought against the village giving the O'Learys the land, saying it would make it easy for the O'Learys to go after them and their guests civilly for trespassing or accidentally running into things on the property. The roadway is already too narrow, they said, and if the land went to the O'Learys the village couldn't widen it. The O'Learys, the Clarkes, and each family's guests are the only people who use that roadway.
The Clarkes presented a petition with 36 signatures opposing the village giving the land to the O'Learys and had a lawsuit ready to go against East Dundee in case the vote went O'Leary's way.
"Everyone takes care of village property, and to give it to a private individual — that would have set a precedent for everyone to say 'I mow this land; I want to own it too,'" Allison Clarke said. "It was a ridiculous request."
During the meeting, Trustee Rob Gorman and suggested that the board postpone making a decision, offer the O'Learys a licensing agreement regarding the property's maintenance and have the board revisit the issue once the Clarke's countersuit against the O'Learys has been resolved.
But Bartels, who said it made no sense to continue to spend village money on the spat, called the question on the vote, which killed Gorman's idea.
Trustees Jeff Lynam and Michael Ruffulo voted in O'Leary's favor, while the rest of the board — Bartels included — voted no. Lynam said he hoped threats of a lawsuit in the future don't force the board to "back down" from other decisions.
Now that the land will stay in the village's hands, the Clarke's lawsuit against East Dundee is "absolutely" off, Allison Clarke said.
Dan O'Leary could not be reached for comment Monday night.
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