Home purchase on behalf of Avon Township was 'improper,' electors say

  • Avon Township electors say the purchase of this vacant house at 320 Bellevue Drive in Round Lake Park on behalf of the township was "improper and invalid."

      Avon Township electors say the purchase of this vacant house at 320 Bellevue Drive in Round Lake Park on behalf of the township was "improper and invalid." Mick Zawislak | Staff Photographer

 
 
Updated 1/14/2020 5:58 PM

Voters who packed the Avon Township hall Monday night for a special meeting united in opposition to the purchase last summer of a vacant house on behalf of the township. But what happens next is unclear.

Both sides in the debate regarding the small house at 320 Bellevue Drive in Round Lake Park think the other is incorrect. And both will consult lawyers to determine how to resolve the matter.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

About 50 voters, known as electors, attended the special town meeting for a discussion of Supervisor Terry Wilke's purchase of the house on behalf of the township. Most contended Wilke did not have authority to buy the house without specific approval by them or the town board.

Wilke said he found the house on Lake County's "green book" of available properties, secured a grant and bought it for $1 as the first project in a proposed township neighborhood revitalization program.

Township rules allow for electors to direct the board of trustees to take actions a majority of the voters favor -- essentially turning the average voter into the government.

Township observers said it was the largest public turnout they had seen for a meeting in years.

Township Trustee Paul Law proposed, then withdrew a motion to direct that the house be sold.

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Then, by a show of hands, the electors adopted a resolution that declared the purchase to be "improper and invalid" and directed the board to hire an attorney to address what to do next. They also "ordered" the township to halt activities related to the property.

The resolution was presented by former township Trustee Chris Larson, who served one term ending in 2017 but did not seek reelection. Larson said he was not monitoring the situation but researched the matter after the special meeting was brought to his attention.

"I was very aware it appeared the supervisor and township as a whole had overstepped their boundaries in terms of the purchase of real estate," he said Tuesday. Larson added his intent was to "get counsel to give (trustees) the right answer of how to deal with this."

Trustee Steven Vaughn said Tuesday the township board will have to "discuss the specifics of how we will enact the independent counsel at our next meeting."

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

However, Wilke said Tuesday the state statute cited in the resolution is misstated "and the rest of it is not something the board and/or electors have legal authority to do," and he wasn't sure how to implement it.

"It doesn't really say what we're supposed to do with the property -- it doesn't give any legal direction," Wilke said.

Township Attorney David Weinstein was looking into "what exactly it means," Wilke added.

Moving forward, Wilke said, he will move the neighborhood revitalization program into the not-for-profit entity that runs the Avon Community Food Pantry.

"That way, it takes it completely out of the hands of politics," he said.

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