Though a federal lawsuit threatens to cancel the annexation of the U.S. Army Reserve base on Cermak Road by North Riverside, the village still plans to meet Aug. 29 to discuss possible uses for the 40-acre property.
North Riverside formally annexed the property in August 2004, with the permission from the Army Corps of Engineers. The Army will continue to use the property until such time as it deems the base should be closed.
However, the Village of Broadview sued North Riverside in Cook County Circuit Court on Aug. 8 to void the annexation, claiming that North Riverside misrepresented Broadview’s claim to the property. Broadview says it has a small border to the armory land.
The case has now been moved to the United States District Court, Eastern Division, at the request of the Army.
“We’re going to spend the next week talking with the U.S. District Attorney, trying to figure out why this was made a federal case,” said Jim Durkin, Broadview’s attorney.
North Riverside had been given until Sept. 5 to respond to the Circuit Court lawsuit, but it’s not clear what the next step will be now that the case is in federal court, Durkin said. Jack Donatelli, assistant United States attorney, did not return phone calls regarding the federal case.
Meanwhile, the Planning Commission and Zoning Board from North Riverside plan to hold a joint meeting at 7 p.m. on Aug. 29 to talk about the armory property.
“We’ve been holding regular meetings about the armory. This meeting will be to talk about the future zoning,” said Guy Belmonte, the North Riverside village administrator.
Broadview, in the lawsuit, is questioning the legality of the annexation, and asked the court to void the property grab.
Broadview claims the 40 acres, bounded by Cermak Road on the south, the Illinois Central Gulf Railroad Line on the north, First Avenue on the east and 9th Avenue on the west, was incorporated in the village before it became the armory. Also, Broadview provides water service to the property.
“We’re challenging the process by which they annexed the property,” said Broadview Mayor Henry Vicenik. “We never even received notification that they were looking at the annexation. Army regulations require that adjoining municipalities be notified.”
In all of its annexation documents, North Riverside makes no mention of Broadview. Durkin said that North Riverside has known for decades about its opposition, and that the annexation papers should have mentioned Broadview.
The Army appears to agree with Vicenik. On Army documents attached to the lawsuit, answers provided by North Riverside about its wish to annex the site do not make any mention of Broadview. Michael Barter, chief of real estate for the U.S. Army Engineer District in Louisville and one of the people who approved the annexation, said in a July 19 letter to North Riverside Mayor Richard Scheck that he regrets the approval.
“The city (sic) of Broadview is correct that if the Corps had known there was an objector, I would not have signed the annexation petition, a decision that would have been consistent with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers policy,” Barter wrote in the letter.
He also said the Army wants Scheck to enter an agreement with Broadview over the property, to avoid litigation.
Scheck did not return several phone calls regarding this story. North Riverside Trustee Randall Czajka said he has not yet seen the case, but defended the annexation.
“We tried to talk with Broadview about this, but never heard anything,” Czajka said. “Our thinking was we didn’t want it to be like Fort Sheridan. We wanted there to be someone in control of the property when the Army base closes. We want to be in control of the property, of what types of businesses or homes go in there, so that it’s not a terrible mess.”
However, there is nothing to indicate that the Army will vacate the property anytime soon. Currently, neither the villages nor the Army know of any future plans to shutter the facility.
Czajka admitted that North Riverside knew Broadview was opposed to annexation plans back in 1985, the last time such a land grab was attempted. Broadview should have tried to be more cooperative then, too, Czajka said.
North Riverside’s annexation request, dated April 15, 2003 from Scheck’s letterhead, does not mention Broadview. However, it does say that North Riverside has been long interested in annexing the property. The request also states that the village provides snowplowing, fire and police services, and that water service could be hooked up.
“The armory is seen as a part of our village by our elected officials and the residents who live here, after all, it is called The North Riverside Armory,” Scheck said in the April 15 letter.