DeKalb Park District property transfer could use another look


DeKalb Park District (DPD) passed a resolution last summer to convey park property to City of DeKalb for its new city hall. The transfer has since occurred under an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) between the two.

City of DeKalb paid DPD a dollar for the property known as the Nehring building. Possibly illegally by ignoring the Park District Code of the Illinois Compiled Statutes. Definitely unfairly as we bear witness, for example, to DPD’s financial struggles to keep its golf courses open. 

DPD acknowledges it must go to referendum to sell a golf course – there’s the Park District Code for you – but somehow a virtual freebie to the city under IGA is fine? What the two parties did was cite other authorities for the conveyance, the Local Government Property Transfer Act and the Intergovernmental Cooperation Act. Here’s what the Property Transfer Act says:

If such real estate shall be held by the transferor municipality without restriction, the said municipality shall have power to grant or convey such real estate or any portion thereof to the transferee municipality upon such terms as may be agreed upon by the corporate authorities of both municipalities…

“If…without restriction…” So, isn’t the next step to check the statutes that apply to the transferor to see what restrictions it might have? City of DeKalb might not have any restrictions, but the city is not the transferor. DPD is, and Article 10 of the Park District Code has a lot to say about it.

In fact, I invite you to read the entirety of Article 10. That way you can soak up the idea behind restrictions: to prevent diminishment of park district property, or at the very least to ensure compensation for it.

Key subsections:

• Sec. 10-7(a) provides for park districts to sell or lease property to state or local governments for public use, but the “grantee or lessee must covenant to hold and maintain the property for public park or recreational purposes unless the park district obtains other real property of substantially the same size or larger and of substantially the same or greater suitability for park purposes without additional cost to the district” (a covenant being, by the way, one of the restrictions listed and defined in the Property Transfer Act). Another provision says the property automatically reverts to the grantor if the grantee knowingly violates this covenant.

• Sec. 10-7a (which is a different subsection from the one above) holds that if the district wants to just outright sell a property under this section, it must adopt a resolution by four-fifths vote to declare the property no longer needed or useful to the district. DPD did this. But it’s not all that’s involved:

• Sec. 10-7b says a park district’s decision to sell must then go to referendum. (And the next subsections say a thumbs-up by the voters gives a district rights to sell the property at auction.)

Public Act 101-0322, passed just last year, was added to the Park District Code as Subsection 10-7(d-5). It provides a means for qualifying park districts to sell property at a price that matches the average of three written certified appraisals. I don’t know if DPD qualifies. My point is, I can see nothing in the Code, old or new, that allows such a giveaway as has occurred, and even if somehow legal, the deal violates the spirit of the Code. 

But there still could be a remedy for shortchanging DPD.  Intergovernmental agreements can be amended. City of DeKalb intends to sell the property the current municipal building sits on. It’s a whole city block. Perhaps some of the property could be given to DPD as a swap. Perhaps monetary compensation could be promised following the sale. 

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