March 16, 2017
The Civic Federation released its second report on unincorporated areas of Cook County in September 2016. The report makes recommendations to promote incorporation of unincorporated areas in Cook County such that every resident of the County is also a resident of a municipality.
In addition to providing a profile of the unincorporated areas, including demographics of residents, types and value of property located in the unincorporated areas and recommendations on how to facilitate the elimination of unincorporated areas, the report also provides a summary of annexation principles and methods in Illinois and other selected states. This blog will describe the principles and methods for annexation in Illinois.
General Annexation Principles in Illinois
There are four requirements that must be fulfilled for annexation of unincorporated properties to a municipality in Illinois:
- The territory must be unincorporated;
- The territory must be contiguous to the annexing municipality;
- Proper notice must be given to fire protection and library districts with jurisdiction over the territory to be annexed if they are providing service to that territory. Annexation of territory where the municipality provides fire protection and library services results in automatic disconnection of the area from the districts in question. There are procedures by which disconnection can be contested and fire protection districts may also negotiate an agreement to receive diminishing tax revenues over a number of years. In addition, notice must be given to the township commissioner of highways, the board of township trustees, the township supervisor and the township clerk if the land to be annexed includes any highway under township jurisdiction. Notice also must also be given to election authorities and the post office; and
- The new boundary of the annexing municipality as it is described in the annexation petition must extend to the far side of any adjacent highway and must include all of every highway within the area to be annexed.
Unincorporated areas can be annexed to an adjoining municipality in several different ways:
- Voluntarily, with the unanimous support of property owners and the majority of voters. These efforts do not require the intervention of the courts;
- With court supervision in situations where there is not unanimous support by property owners; and
- When the municipality proactively seeks involuntary annexation of territory of less than 60 acres.
Voluntary Annexation without Court Supervision
Voluntary Annexation by Ordinance
This method of annexation is the simplest as there are no requirements of notice, public hearings, court supervision or a referendum.
If there are no electors in an unincorporated area, the owners of the properties contiguous to a municipality may file a petition requesting annexation. The municipality may then, by majority vote of its governing body, approve the annexation.
If there are electors in the unincorporated area, 100% of the property owners of record and at least 51% of the electors residing within a territory may file a petition requesting annexation. The municipality may by majority vote of its governing body approve the annexation. This type of annexation is not subject to a referendum.
The annexation process is complete when a copy of the annexation ordinance and a map of the territory annexed are filed with the County Clerk’s Office.
Voluntary Annexation of Wholly Surrounded Territory
Unincorporated areas that are wholly bounded by two or more municipalities may be annexed without court supervision if a majority of the property owners submit an annexation petition and the municipality and the municipal authorities approve that petition. The size of the area to be annexed cannot be increased by more than one-third prior to the annexation decision.
Annexation Requiring Court Action
Court-Supervised Petition for Annexation by Owners and Electors
If all of the property owners do not consent to annexation, it can be achieved by court order. This action requires that a majority of the property owners and a majority of the electors in the area in question sign and file a petition in the Cook County Circuit Court requesting annexation. The Circuit Court then holds a hearing on the matter. The Court will remove from consideration any properties located on the edge of the territory to be annexed if the owners object to the annexation and removal of those properties will not eliminate the contiguity of the area. If the Court finds the petition to be technically in compliance with statutory requirements then it is forwarded to municipal authorities for their consideration. If the corporate authorities of the municipality approve the annexation, the property is incorporated into the municipality. However, 10% of the voters of the municipality can request a referendum be held on the annexation. The vote of the electors is determinative.
An optional method for court-supervised annexation by owners and electors may be used for unincorporated territory that is less than one square mile, contains 500 or more residents and is contiguous to a municipality that has fewer than 100,000 residents. The affected parties may apply to the Circuit Court to authorize submission of the annexation question to the voters. In addition, the area to be considered for annexation cannot include any individual property in excess of ten acres without the consent of the owners of those parcels. The application must be signed by at least 100 voters and more than half of the property owners.
Court-Supervised Annexation by the Municipality
Municipalities may proactively seek annexation of unincorporated properties. In this case, the municipality initiates the incorporation by approving an annexation ordinance. The ordinance is filed with the Circuit Court. No tract of land exceeding ten acres may be included in this process without consent of the property owner unless the tract is subdivided into lots or blocks or is bounded on at least three sides by land subdivided into lots or blocks.
If the Court finds that the ordinance is valid, it enters an order directing that the question of annexation be submitted to the governing body of the annexing municipality for action. A majority vote of the governing body is required to annex the territory.
The governing body may order a referendum on the annexation after a favorable vote. If the corporate authorities of the municipality reject annexation or do not order a referendum, then a petition may be filed to require a referendum by electors equal to 10% of the entire vote cast for all candidates for mayor or president at the last general municipal election in the annexing municipality. If a majority of the electors in the affected area voting on the question favor annexation, then it is approved.
Involuntary Annexation of Surrounded or Nearly Surrounded Territory Under 60 Acres
Territory containing 60 acres or less may be annexed by a municipality without the consent of property owners if it is wholly bounded by:
- One or more municipalities;
- One or more municipalities and a creek, river or lake;
- One or more municipalities and the Illinois state boundary;
- One or more municipalities and property owned by the State of Illinois except State highway rights of way;
- One or more municipalities and a forest preserve or park district;
- One or more municipalities and an interstate highway owned in fee by the State and bounded by a frontage road if the territory is a triangular parcel of 10 acres or less; or
- One or more municipalities and property on which a federally funded research facility in excess of 2,000 acres is located.
Municipalities in Cook County are not permitted to annex territory of a forest preserve district without obtaining the consent of the district pursuant to Section 8.3 of the Cook County Forest Preserve Act, nor can any Cook County municipality annex territory owned by a park district without obtaining consent of the park district pursuant to Section 8-1.1 of the Park District Code.
Notice of the annexation must be provided in a newspaper of general circulation at least ten days prior to the date of approval of the annexation ordinance. If the property lies in a township other than the township in which the municipality is located, then the township must also be given written notice ten days prior to the date of annexation. Once the governing body approves the incorporation of the properties by a majority vote, the annexation is final.
65 ILCS 5 Article 7 Division 1 Annexation.
 Stewart H. Diamond and Julie A. Tappendorf. Municipal Annexation Handbook. (Chicago: Ancel Glink, 2012 edition), p. 8.
65 ILCS 5/7-1-8.
 Sibenaller v. Milschewski, 379 Ill.App.3d 717, (2nd District 2008), cited in Stewart H. Diamond and Julie A. Tappendorf. Municipal Annexation Handbook. (Chicago: Ancel Glink, 2012 edition), p. 11.
 People ex rel. County of St. Clair v. City of Belleville, 84 Ill.2d 1 (1981).
65 ILCS 5/7-1-12.
65 ILCS 5/7-1-2.
65 ILCS 5/7-1-11.
65 ILCS 5/7-1-5.
65 ILCS 5/7-1-6.
65 ILCS 5/7-1-13.