BOUNDARY IN THE SAND

Boundary big deal – WHAT IS THE BOUNDARY AGREEMENT & WHY DOES IT MATTER

The boundary agreement is in place to protect the interests of two neighboring villages and to establish a mutually-agreed upon boundary in which each municipality would have the power to annex unincorporated property up to the boundary line. It also dictates that should any third party (like Northpoint Development) approach either village regarding a development/project that would span both sides of the agreed-upon boundary (as Compass Business Park would) that both villages would be required to work together. In the event that they would not be included, the village that was approached would be required to denounce the project.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018 – Village of Manhattan Board Meeting

As expected, the Village of Manhattan Board voted unanimously to extend the current boundary agreement with the Village of Elwood. For Elwood and Manhattan, the current boundary agreement expires in 2026 and is roughly located at Ridge Road. Manhattan voted to extend the boundary agreement an additional 20 years to 2046.

The Village of Manhattan’s request to extend the current boundary agreement another 20 years came about in order to quell fears that the Village of Elwood was interested in moving forward with Northpoint Development without the Village of Manhattan. It appeared to be a last-ditch effort to get a seat at the negotiating table after months of ignored requests for information from the Village of Elwood and Northpoint Development regarding the Compass Business Park project.

The fear is that with Elwood exclusively dealing with Northpoint, leaving Manhattan completely out of the negotiations (already a violation of the boundary agreement if you read the language), that they could get approvals for the bridge, build the bridge, and build the warehouses on their side of the boundary agreement — then marching across the boundary after 2026 and annexing all the property currently in Manhattan’s territory into Elwood.

Not having a boundary agreement (as both villages will be after 2026) would give Elwood the ability to have absolute power over the negotiations with the developer, power over the development and over the unincorporated property that could be annexed into the Village of Elwood at will. Extending the boundary agreement would force both villages to work together on any projects spanning the boundary line, such as Northpoint Development and require the Northpoint Development to deal with both municipalities – which means getting approval for tax incentives and special variances would require approval from two boards instead of one. Being forced to work with two municipalities could potentially derail the Northpoint Development project.

 

Wednesday, February 7, 2018 – Village of Elwood Board Meeting

HOWEVER… Contrary the vote expected by the two towns that was reported in local newspapers, the Village of Elwood voted against extending the boundary agreement with Manhattan. Elwood Mayor Doug Jenco presented the Manhattan-Elwood extension request after reading a letter from the City of Joliet in which Joliet counsel stated they did not wish to discuss the boundary agreement until 2019, the year that the Elwood-Joliet boundary agreement expires.

Immediately after presenting that letter (which was not in the agenda),  Elwood Mayor Doug Jenco asked the Mayor of Manhattan, Jamie Doyle, who was present at the Elwood Board Meeting, to come up and explain why they wanted to extend it. He explained the reasons highlighted above. In a humiliating move, the Elwood Board then immediately moved to vote against extending the agreement with Lowrance making a motion to NOT extend the boundary agreement. All voted in favor of leaving the boundary agreement as-is (voting AGAINST extending the current agreement) with the exception of Trustee Darryl Lab.

Elwood’s board room was completely filled, with people spilling out into an overflow room and into the hallways. Community members were still reeling from the Planning & Zoning Commission vote in which they voted to recommend Northpoint Development without any questions or discussion after nearly 14 hours of testimony against the Compass Business Park project. The boundary agreement vote was a critical move because it is quite telling as to the manner in which board members may vote on Northpoint Development.

This board meeting was particularly noteworthy because the Village Administrator Marian Gibson also admitted that the Village of Elwood LOST tens of thousands of dollars from Wooded Cove Residents, shrugging it off stating that it wasn’t that much money. They then immediately moved on to discussing how they planned to destroy old records.

All eyes are on Elwood and Manhattan now.  The Village of Manhattan certainly has enough evidence — just by what  I’ve seen from what was obtained by FOIA — to sue the Village of Elwood for violating the boundary agreement. Time will tell if that happens and they choose to go that route.

Either way, this won’t be the last of what we see from either village regarding the boundary line and certainly not regarding Northpoint Development.

 

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