With about two dozen of their neighbors opting to sell their homes to the Cook County Land Bank, the remaining residents of unincorporated Riverside Lawn are looking to secure fire protection for the long haul from the village of Lyons.
Over the past two years, Cook County has been demolishing the roughly 22 homes it has purchased through a buyout program aimed at depopulating flood-prone Riverside Lawn, an unincorporated area of Riverside Township located between 39th Street and a sharp bend of the Des Plaines River.
Rob Rose, the executive director of the Cook County Land Bank, said another 10 to 12 property owners have expressed renewed interest in selling their properties, which could leave the neighborhood with a dozen or fewer homes in the future.
Since 1966, the neighborhood has secured fire protection and emergency medical services from the village of Lyons through the Riverside Lawn Fire Protection District, which is funded via a special property tax levy.
But with fewer property owners remaining to fund firefighting and emergency medical services and a smaller pool of people from which to draw trustees, residents have filed a petition in Cook County Circuit Court to dissolve the fire protection district, and seek to put the matter to a vote on the Nov. 6 ballot.
If the court rules in favor of allowing a vote and the question is approved by voters in November, the dissolution of the Riverside Lawn Fire Protection District would become effective Jan. 1, 2019.
A public hearing on the dissolution petition will be held at 9:30 a.m. on Aug. 10 in Room 1706 of the Richard J. Daley Center, 50 W. Washington Blvd. in Chicago. Anyone who owns property in Riverside Lawn will have an opportunity to publicly comment on the dissolution proposal at the hearing.
A copy of the petition obtained by the Landmark shows that 28 of 41 people registered to vote in Riverside Lawn, signed the document. Some people still registered to vote in Riverside Lawn no longer live there, but none of those people signed the petition.
On July 17, after the Landmark’s press time, the Lyons Village Board was scheduled to vote to approve an intergovernmental agreement with the fire protection district that would transfer the remaining assets of the district to the village in exchange for providing firefighting and emergency medical services for the next 20 years.
According to Lyons Village President Christopher Getty, the assets of the fire protection district – essentially, the money it has collected through the special tax over the years – are projected to be between $30,000 and $50,000.
That money will, according to the terms of the intergovernmental agreement, be used “for the benefit of the Lyons Fire Department and its service to the property owners remaining within the boundaries of the [Riverside Lawn Fire Protection] District.”
When the agreement expires at the end of 2038, the village and remaining residents of Riverside Lawn will need to renegotiate the terms.
The intergovernmental agreement depends on voters approving to dissolve the fire protection district in November.
Since 2011, fires have destroyed two homes, both vacant, in Riverside Lawn.
The most recent fire, on June 28, destroyed the home at 3744 Stanley Ave., the oldest in the neighborhood. That home was among the properties bought by the Cook County Land Bank and had been vacant for more than a year while awaiting demolition.