Group of residents trying to petition to dissolve Oakwood Hills

A group of Oakwood Hills residents aims to put a resolution to dissolve the village on the March election ballot, sparking another group wanting to “Save Oakwood Hills” to form in response.

Richard Studer, one of the organizers of the group looking to dissolve Oakwood Hills, has lived in the village for 15 years with his wife. He came there after he retired, wanting to be closer to his daughter and grandchildren.

However, he, as well as other members of the dissolution group, have “really uncovered a number of issues that concern us,” Studer said.

Illinois law states that electors who want to dissolve a municipality need to file a petition to the clerk requesting the submission of the question on the ballot. If a majority of the people vote yes on getting rid of the municipality, then it is dissolved. If voters strike the measure down, the proposition can’t be submitted for a vote in the same place for
22 months.

Studer said he didn’t want to give the exact number of people who signed the petition they have been circulating, but they have “exceeded” the state’s requirements. He said that the group will file the petition with the village clerk before the deadline.

The group started organizing about a year and a half ago.

Studer said the group had a couple of community meetings, starting with those in the Chalet Hills community, to assess people’s feelings on dissolving the village.

They started going to board meetings and bringing up their concerns. Studer said they have not been satisfied with the board’s sensitivity as it relates to their concerns as consumers.

Two of the taxes Studer said the group has issues with include an “amusement tax” on the Chalet Hills Golf Club. Although residents themselves don’t have to pay this tax, he said the club is an “important asset” to them, and those who live in Chalet Hills think the tax is “inappropriate.”

Residents do have to pay a municipal utility tax, which Studer said the group also has issues with.

For example, Studer said the Village Board could have applied for other resources such as federal grants to pay for its service needs, instead of asking for that money from taxpayers.

In addition, he said the group doesn’t think the roads have been properly managed and maintained.

Don Kalter, one of the organizers of the Save Oakwood Hills group, said he first was made aware that there was action being taken to put the dissolution of Oakwood Hills on the March primary ballot when one of his neighbors came by and showed him a copy of one of the flyers being distributed.

The group to save Oakwood Hills also created a Facebook page.

For Kalter, the dissolve group’s reason for wanting to disband the village is “elusive.”

Kalter estimates that he pays about $25-$35 a month in taxes.

“For that, we get an entire town, a police force, beaches and that’s a pretty good deal,” he said.

Residents wanting to save the village are concerned these would all be taken away if the village is dissolved.

“Our identity, our small self-governance, it would all be wiped out over night,” Kalter said.

Kalter describes the push to “Save Oakwood Hills” as a “get out the vote” campaign, encouraging people to vote.

“We will be there. We will vote it down, there is no question of that,” Kalter said.

The dissolution group’s goal is ultimately to become an unincorporated area, with services provided by Nunda Township.

Nunda Township Supervisor Lee Jennings said it is a “rare thing” to unincorporate.

“There’s a lot to this action,” Jennings said.

Brad Cole, executive director of the Illinois Municipal League, said there have been a couple of moves to dissolve municipalities over the decade.

However, these are usually for smaller communities than Oakwood Hills, with populations in the hundreds, Cole said.

Jennings estimated the largest cost if Oakwood Hills were to dissolve will be the roads.

While Nunda Township likely would receive extra money from gas taxes based on those extra miles of roadway, Jennings said it wouldn’t be enough to cover the costs of improving and maintaining those roads.

To help offset that extra expense, township officials could potentially create a special assessment specifically “to bring the roads up to speed,” Jennings said.

Village taxes no longer would exist should the municipality be dissolved.

“We would be reluctant to increase the township levy, but we may have to,” Jennings said.

That’s because those additional roads would require that a new snow plow be purchased to cover extra routes and another driver would need to be hired, he said. “That’s the biggest expense, most likely,” Jennings said.

The question of what becomes of Oakwood Hills’ municipal parks also would need to be addressed should the municipality be dissolved. Options include homeowner’s associations, developers, school districts and Nunda Township or McHenry County taking control and being responsible for maintenance, Jennings said. Lawyers would have to hash that out.

Nunda Township also has its own garbage removal contract, whereas some other townships do not, Jennings said. Should Oakwood Hills dissolve, residents in the Nunda Township portion could receive garbage pickup through the township. It could be less than they pay for that service now, he said.

• News Editor Kristen Zambo contributed to this report.

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