Elk Grove, legislators push for new rules to make annexations easier
On the heels of a bitter annexation dispute, Elk Grove Village and two legislators are advancing new state rules that would make it easier for municipalities to acquire unincorporated properties.
State Sen. Laura Murphy's bill to strengthen towns' annexation rights unanimously passed the Senate last Thursday and is now before a House committee after it was sponsored in that chamber by state Rep. Marty Moylan. The two Des Plaines Democrats -- former members of that city's council, to boot -- sponsored the legislation that originated as an initiative of Elk Grove Village officials, according to Murphy's office.
Murphy said the proposed changes to the Illinois Municipal Code would resolve confusion and more clearly define the factors that determine an annexation's validity.
"There are statutory requirements in place to ensure local governments can annex property legally and with the best interests of the community in mind," Murphy said in a statement Monday. "Recent court rulings have complicated these requirements -- this legislation sets them straight."
It stems from a nearly two-year legal dispute started when Elk Grove tried to forcibly annex 58 acres along Higgins Road and local developer and landowner Mario Gullo sued in an attempt to block it. The two sides settled out of court in December, when the village agreed to let seven of Gullo's properties remain in unincorporated Cook County and not subject to village rules and ordinances.
Attorneys for Gullo, president of George Gullo Development Corp., argued the village's attempt in 2018 to forcibly annex his land was improper because it was preceded by a voluntary "sham" annexation of a separate 41-acre parcel owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago. They based their case on a 2018 appellate court ruling that overturned Bolingbrook's forcible annexation of properties after that village first annexed ComEd properties.
Murphy's legislation declares that a municipality could seek the voluntary annexation of land in order to "seek contiguity with other territory; or wholly bind other territory for the purpose of annexing that other territory."
An attorney who represented Elk Grove in the annexation dispute is registered with the state as a formal proponent of the bill. But Mayor Craig Johnson declined to comment Monday on the legislation.
On Monday night, Gullo's attorney, Karl Camillucci, released statements attributed to property owners in the area decrying the legislation and Elk Grove's annexation attempts.
"Sen. Murphy's legislation leaves residents, and small business owners like us, helpless and defenseless," according to a statement attributed to Tria Lichner, president of the Community Council of Roppolo and Richard, a group of homeowners who've sought to remain disconnected from Elk Grove Village. "This legislation would take away our voice and our right to stand up for ourselves."
The bill does not have any registered opponents to date, according to the state's witness slips listing.
As called for in the settlement, the water district board agreed April 15 to mutually terminate the annexation agreement with Elk Grove, leaving the 41 acres near its Majewski Reservoir Site unincorporated.