A MAP ISSUED by Will County shows the territories in the Wilmington Island Park District in yellow, and the territories in the city limits that are not also in the Park District in purple. The Park District just launched an initiative to annex the properties that are in the city but not the district.
The Wilmington Island Park District is missing out on thousands of property tax dollars every year, and director Renee Chavez has made it her mission to correct a costly problem.
She reported to the Board of Commissioners last week that she is pursuing annexation of the parcels that state law will permit the district to annex; parcels that should have come into the district long ago.
"We're trying to discover if they've actually been annexed and if it's mapping that's behind, if it's Will County that's behind or if it's the lack of following suit in getting paperwork in. And there's no real good way of tracking where the hole is," Chavez said. "... I need to move on this as I'm finding how much property is not there."
The Park District is designed to be coterminous with the city - to have the same boundaries. According to Illinois statutes (70 ILCS 1205/3-10), whenever the city annexes property, the Park District may annex the land by passing an ordinance to that effect. The Park District is not required to hold public hearings or publish legal notices concerning the annexation.
The Park District annexation has to take place within one year of the city's annexation if the territory annexed is more than 120 acres, but that time restriction does not exist for territory under 120 acres.
Using this process, the district annexed RidgePort Logistics Center in 2010 and earlier, the ProLogis business park on South Arsenal Road.
However, there are still parcels that the Will County supervisor of assessments does not have on record as being part of the Island Park District. In the same September 2010 annexation in which the district brought RidgePort into its boundaries, the Board of Commissioners also annexed the 80-acre city landfill site on Strip Mine Road, which has not been recorded as part of the Park District. The 160-acre Tameling property on Strip Mine Road at Route 129, which was annexed to the Park District in April 2010 to create contiguity with the Cinder Ridge property, also does not appear in the Park District boundary.
Chavez obtained a map of the district's borders from the Will County supervisor of assessments office mapping department. The map compares the district's territory to the Wilmington municipal limit, and shows that the district had missed a lot of annexed land, and consequently, a lot of property tax dollars. Included are the Water's Edge Estates, Oakwest, Deer Ridge and Prairie Farms subdivisions and estate lots on Stevens Lane.
The county map also does not show the Davy Lane industrial park and a sprinkling of commercial properties on West Baltimore Street as being in the Park District. Some of the properties, like Prairie Farms and the Tameling campground, also do not show up in the city limits. The accuracy of the county record could be at question, since it still shows Shadow Lakes in the city limits, and that property was deannexed in 1998.
To correct the boundaries, the district staff and attorney have to:
Identify all property not in the Park District
Verify if the parcel does not appear in the district as a result of a processing error, or if the property still needs to be annexed
Prepare best method to incorporate the property
Present to the board the findings with a recommended action
The board will make a decision on how to proceed
The board is slated to act on the annexation of the city's most recent additions; the Miken Cartage facility on Route 53 and New River Road, and the Joliet Motosports Park on Blodgett Road at Kelly Road; at the March 28 meeting.
Chavez plans to tackle the past annexations in reverse order and will rely on the city's annexation documents as recorded at the county offices for much of the Park District's documentation.
She has no way of determining how much money the district could be receiving from the parcels that do not appear in the district boundaries, and also is not certain if the district would be able to collect back taxes from parcels that were annexed but not properly recorded by the county. The district will not be able to annex territories in excess of 120 acres that were annexed to the city more than one year ago, without a referendum.
To ensure the district doesn't lose out in the future, the system of filing and documentation at the park office is being changed. In the past, if the Board of Commissioners approved an annexation ordinance, it was filed with the minutes of the meeting in which the action occurred. The office staff is currently assembling copies of all ordinances in one place and creating a searchable table of contents to ensure documents can be located in the future.