Unincorporated residents fight potential forced Burr Ridge annexation

Ken Payne has been living on unincorporated land on 89th Street near Burr Ridge for more than 50 years.

Born and raised in the area, he has softeners and an iron filtration system to treat his well water. His small-engine repair business is walking distance from his home. He has large oak trees dotting the properties where his home, rental property and business set, giving them an upper Wisconsin, woodsy, secluded feel. It is a feeling that blankets the neighborhood.

Nine out of 10 times after a snowfall, Payne plows his dead end street before Downers Grove Township does. But even when the township gets there first, the street is cleared by 5 or 6 a.m.

He says he doesn’t want — or need — anything from Burr Ridge, and neither do any of his neighbors.

“There is nothing more we would get in services,” Payne said of possibly being forced annexed into the village. “We have the (DuPage) county police, and the township plows our streets. Those are the two biggest things they are bringing to the table.”

That is why he and the other owners of 10 unincorporated 89th Street parcels near Madison Street, which are now surrounded by Burr Ridge, are fighting a possible forced annexation by the village. The village contends it can offer the residents quicker police response than the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department, zoning protection, and the added benefit of being in Burr Ridge when looking to sell their land.

“We already have Burr Ridge mailing addresses,” Payne said.

Village officials note that since 2003, their policy has been to force annex properties that are within the village’s planning jurisdiction at such time that forced annexation becomes possible, to sweeten annexation through the waiver of fees, and to offer annexation with water main extensions.

Things have not gotten that far in this case, but an informal meeting is expected to take place within the next month between village staff and the 89th Street residents in an effort to answer residents’ questions about being part of the village.

“The sheriff’s department can take 20-25 minutes to get to this area,” village Trustee Janet Ryan Grasso said last week during board discussion of the potential forced annexation. “The county is hoping that pockets like this are annexed into villages.”

“We have been where we are for 25 years,” said John Daugirdas, another 89th Street resident, “and we have had no reason to ever call the police.”

Payne said he recently contacted the sheriff’s department regarding a fender-bender accident in the area and a deputy was on the scene in 12 minutes.

Village figures show that a home with a $600,000 market value can be expected to pay the municipality approximately $450 per year in taxes (property, telecommunications, etc ) and generate more than $800 per year in revenues, including motor fuel tax and income tax distributed to the villgae by the state based on population.

Village Administrator Steve Stricker noted during last week’s Village Board meeting that the unincorporated residents benefit from plowed nearby village streets and other services.

“They say because I drive on 91st Street and Madison, I should pay the village,” Payne said. “I also drive on other communities’ streets, but I am not going to stop in those given communities and give them a few bucks.”

When residents raised concerns at last week’s meeting about their growing wild flowers and Payne’s business being targeted if annexed into the village, Stricker tried to put their fears at ease, saying, “If it is OK with the county, then it is OK with the village.”

The Village Board forced annexed 169 acres in 2003 and an additional 47 acres in 2013. Those forced annexations resulted in the annexation of 216 acres and 63 single-family residences.

Village officials contend there have been land use and development conflicts within unincorporated areas. Perhaps the most significant example is the SAlA property on North Frontage Road. Had the village been able to annex that area prior to SAlA beginning operations, the village’s zoning ordinance would not have permitted a truck terminal and SAIA would likely not be in operation at that location.

The recent forced annexation of the Buege Lane area was predicated upon concerns that this area could be developed in the county or go to Willow Springs, with lots that would not be consistent with Burr Ridge lots in the Arrowhead Farm and Oak Knoll subdivisions. Payne said there is no chance of the residents — five of the six families averaging 35 years in the area — going anywhere else.

“We aren’t going anywhere,” Payne said.

Village officials contend they can better handle code issues on the local level. As a case in point, they point to construction of a house that was begun sometime around 2008 on the unincorporated property at 10S450 Madison. Construction was abandoned in 2009 and the house has been left unfinished ever since. Similar circumstances, they noted, occurred on properties within the corporate limits and the village has been able to force the completion of those houses The home at 10S450 Madison remains unfinished and an eyesore for surrounding Burr Ridge residents, they said.

A three-home development nearby, at 89th Street and Madison, now part of the village, fell countless oak trees, Payne noted. If that is the progress that comes with being part of the village, Payne said, he doesn’t want any part of it.

Payne contends the proposed forced annexation goes against the village’s own comprehensive plan, which states “no plan implements itself, the most important resource is people. Recommendations without active support groups are seldom enacted.”

“They are contradicting that,” Payne said.

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