Legal battle over between Lake in the Hills Sanitary District, McHenry County

H. Rick Bamman file photo –
The Lake in the Hills wastewater treatment facility, 515 Plum St., is seen from above.
H. Rick Bamman file photo – The Lake in the Hills wastewater treatment facility, 515 Plum St., is seen from above.

LAKE IN THE HILLS – McHenry County can move forward with plans to possibly consolidate the Lake in the Hill Sanitary District with the village.

Lake in the Hills Sanitary District officials have agreed to stop trying to annex land across the Kane County border that would block the McHenry County Board from potentially consolidating the district with village government, according to court documents filed Wednesday.

Former sanitary district board President Shelby Key and Trustee Terry Easler also stopped challenging the county’s authority to appoint new trustees to the sanitary district’s board.

McHenry County Judge Thomas Meyer temporarily halted the district’s proposed Kane County land purchase earlier this month, and later granted a preliminary injunction blocking the sale, McHenry County Board Chairman Jack Franks and State’s Attorney Patrick Kenneally announced Aug. 24.

Both sides agreed to dismiss the case without prejudice and bear its respective legal fees, according to court documents.

“I am happy that the sanitary district officials who brought this challenge forward have decided, in the best interests of the taxpayers, to end it,” Franks said in a statement.

The sanitary district planned to spend about $950,000 to buy 13.88 acres off Square Barn Road just over the county line to expand the district and apparently to stifle County Board discussions about consolidating the district with village government, documents show.

In June, Franks appointed Trustees Eric Hansen and Kyle Kane, who voted to reverse the decision on the land deal and ignited a legal battle.

Under a state law Franks wrote during his last term as a state lawmaker, McHenry and Lake counties have the authority to eliminate taxing bodies that are entirely within the county, and to which the board appoints a majority of the trustees.

If the sanitary district were to have boundaries in multiple counties, however, it would become exempt from the law, and the decision to appoint trustees would fall to state lawmakers, not the County Board.

Private email communication between district officials and engineers, attorneys and real estate brokers revealed that the sanitary district seemed eager to close any land deal it could in Kane County in order to prevent consolidation.

Officials also considered offering existing Kane County homeowners up to $30,000 apiece to annex to the district, records show.

“Consolidating the Lake in the Hills Sanitary District is far from a done deal, and it’s an issue that the county and the village have agreed is in the taxpayers’ best interests,” Franks said in the statement. “Fortunately, that discussion can now begin, honestly and earnestly, without distraction.”

Sanitary district members did not respond to requests for comment.

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