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updated: 9/24/2013 4:54 AM

Geneva-Batavia library lawsuit at an end? Maybe

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  • Will the Geneva Library or Batavia Library get potential more space with a land annexation. A judge has said no, but the fight might not be over.

       Will the Geneva Library or Batavia Library get potential more space with a land annexation. A judge has said no, but the fight might not be over.
    LAURA STOECKER | Staff Photographer, 2009

 
 

A judge has ruled that the Geneva Public Library's attempt to annex land in Blackberry Township, west of the Mill Creek subdivision, is invalid.

McHenry County Chief Judge Michael Sullivan also ruled, in the same opinion issued last Thursday, that two of the Batavia Public Library's attempts to annex land in the same area were also invalid.

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According to Batavia Library Board President Doug Sullivan, that won't matter, because the library in 2006 adopted a third annexation ordinance of the nearly 1,500 acres in question as a "stopgap" in case Geneva's annexation was thrown out. Therefore, the land is Batavia's, according to Sullivan.

"We're pleased by the outcome of the ruling," Sullivan said.

Not so fast.

Geneva Library Board President Esther Steel said the board would likely discuss the matter at its regular meeting Thursday night.

"I do not believe this is over. It is an extremely complicated ruling," Steel said.

The Geneva board had planned to meet Monday to discuss a new annexation ordinance but canceled the meeting. She doesn't expect to discuss annexation Thursday night, but the board will be briefed about the ruling.

At issue was farmland, generally north and west of the Mill Creek subdivision, going as far north as Route 38.

Batavia annexed it in October 2006. Geneva protested, saying that a "gentleman's agreement" made by area library directors in the late 1980s said the area should go eventually to the Geneva district, because most of it lies in the Geneva school district.

State law encourages library districts to run with school district boundaries. Batavia adopted another, revised, annexation ordinance.

Batavia's ordinances were invalid because the library board failed to address land-description errors, Sullivan wrote. The errors were substantial enough that merely having the library director "correct" them when the ordinance was recorded with the Kane County recorder of deeds was not sufficient, according to the judge.

The corrections removed about 100 acres from the annexation, including land that housed two of the few residents of the territory.

Those two people were relatives of a Geneva Library employee, and they petitioned to force a referendum on the annexation, after the then-Geneva Library director registered them as voters.

Geneva Library annexed 175 acres that included a strip 500 feet wide by 3,980 feet long. While Geneva argued to Judge Sullivan they did it to keep its boundaries the same as the school district's, Batavia presented evidence that Geneva also did it to block Batavia.

A question-and-answer sheet posted on the library website and handed out to residents said the library "annexed the minimum amount of other territory to block Batavia from annexing in to the Geneva school district."

That move violated the spirit of state annexation law, according to Sullivan's ruling, because the strip was not "meaningfully contiguous."

Batavia Library officials estimate the land to have an equalized assessed valuation of $5.67 million as of July 2012. It would generate about $16,042 in property taxes for the library district right now. But if developed with residences the minimum EAV of the property would be $437.4 million, and property taxes, using the 2011 rate and not adjusting for inflation, would be $1.97 million, according to library officials.

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