by ShawnP. Flaherty (Spring 2018)
A “no man’s land” is defined as “an indeterminate or undefined place or state” or alternatively, as “an area that is unowned, uninhabited, or undesirable.” A cursory review of county fire protection maps shows several parcels of property that are neither contained within the borders of a fire protection district nor a municipality that provides fire protection services. These properties usually are the result of the farm or property who opted out of joining a fire protection district when it was initially formed by referendum and court order.
Some of these “no man’s land” are public land or rights of way containing little in value for a fire protection district. Others have been developed into residential or commercial interests that are best protected for fire and emergency services by being annexed into the boundaries of a municipality or fire protection district.
Several owners of these parcels have not cooperated with attempts to annex into a fire protection districts, as they have been content to accept fire protection services for free, while paying nonresident rates for ambulance service. This situation was identified as inequitable, and legislation was introduced aimed at correcting this discrepancy.
On November 9, 2017, the Illinois General Assembly overrode Governor Bruce Rauner’s veto, thereby enacting Public Act 100-547 into law effective on January 1, 2018. This law creates Section 3.3 of the Fire Protection District Act (70 ILCS 705/3.3) and provides a streamlined method whereby a board of trustees of a fire protection district may annex property in a “no man’s land” under prescribed circumstances which include notice to the property owner, certification from the dispatch agency, and adoption and filing of an annexation ordinance.
Section 3.3 permits a fire protection district to annex “property for which the district is providing coverage under Section 10.2 of the Emergency Telephone System Act” by adopting an annexation ordinance. A fire protection district would be well served by obtaining an affidavit and other proof from its dispatch center certifying that the property sought to be annexed is assigned to the fire protection district for emergency calls. Without such a certification, the annexation under this section is subject to attack.
Assuming that the fire protection district is able to secure the affidavit of service from the dispatch provider, the remaining annexation steps of Section 3.3 are straightforward:
- Prepare an annexation ordinance containing the legal description and Property Identification Number (PIN) of the property to be annexed;
- Set a date for a public hearing on the annexation;
- Provide at least 20 days, advance notice via certified mail to the property owner of the date, time, and location of the public hearing;
- Include the public hearing and adoption of the annexation ordinance on the agenda of the board meeting;
- Hold a public hearing on the annexation. You are required to allow the impacted property owners or other interested parties to be heard on the matter;
- Adopt the annexation ordinance;
- File the annexation ordinance with the County Clerk, the OSFM, and the impacted property owners; and
- Although not statutorily required, we recommend you record a copy of the annexation ordinance with the County Recorder and provide a copy of this document to the county map department and county tax extender.
The primary advantage of this new law is that the property owners cannot easily say “no” to the annexation of their unprotected properties. Our firm has assisted several clients in identifying “no man’s lands” within or outside of their borders, and we are assisting these clients in adding these properties on to their tax rolls for the 2018 tax year payable in calendar year 2019. If your district has any “no man’s lands” that require annexation, you should consider saying “yes” to annexing them under this new procedure.