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Tuesday, April 27: The Plot Thickens About Who Owns the Retention Ponds

I want to talk about some "big picture" stuff that is going on for the Glenview Beavers Fan Club. When I reached out to Ben Goldfarb, author of Eager, he suggested that I get a hold of Heidi Perryman, who is famous in the beaver world for saving the beavers on Martinez Creek in California, and has since gone on to start changing the culture of trapping and killing beavers deemed a "nuisance" in the State of California. She is basically a clearinghouse of beaver information. Heidi's website, www.martinezbeavers.org/wordpress/, offers a wealth of information about beavers; I encourage you to check it out. So we have been exchanging information, and she introduced me to Mike Callahan at the Beaver Institute (www.beaverinstitute.org). Mike is one of the country's foremost experts on designing and installing flow devices that keep beavers from causing floods through damming. If we are going to change the culture in the State of Illinois from trapping and killing to coexisting, we are going to need people on the ground who can remediate beaver problems. That's one of the things the GBFC is working on behind the scenes.


Now, let's turn to our attention to Concord at the Glen. A search of public records seems to indicate that on June 12, 2007, Concord at the Glen transferred three ponds (on two parcels) to the Village of Glenview for $10. The PINS for these two parcels of land are: PIN 04-27-426-027-0000 and PIN 04-27-421-002-0000


In 2008, the HOA paid $1,529.77 in property taxes on the first PIN and $63,839.51 in property taxes on the second PIN. Since the sale, no property taxes have been paid on either parcel, as the parcels presumably now belong to the Village.


Let me stipulate that I have no idea if it is common for villages to purchase retention ponds from HOAs. Purchasing retention ponds may offer some benefit to a village; for example, it would presumably give them control over the ponds that play an important role in flood remediation, so in that way it might be in a village’s residents’ best interests for the village to purchase retention ponds.


What benefit would the HOA accrue from selling the retention ponds to the village? Well, the most obvious benefit would be relief from paying property taxes. Since assessed values can fluctuate, let’s posit that the HOA would have paid an average of $50,000 per year on those two parcels. There are 143 houses in the development, so each homeowner saved an average of $350 per year. Since Concord at the Glen hasn’t paid property taxes since 2009 on those parcels, that’s 11 years. So that’s $550,000 that the HOA has not paid, money that would have funded our local school districts, public transport, infrastructure, and other municipal government projects. Property tax income is almost always used for local projects and services, and does not go to the federal or state budget.


Now again, because I don’t know if selling retention ponds to a village is a common practice, I won’t judge the sale itself. Also, I don't know if those parcels of land were fairly valued at the time, although presumably if they were overvalued, the HOA could have chosen to appeal its property tax burden. And we don’t know what use agreements or covenants exist between the Village of Glenview and the HOA, although I have submitted a FOIA request to find out.


But if a HOA sells its parcels of land and ponds to a village, should it be able to pretend that the land and ponds are still private property and post signs to that effect? Should it be able to make the decision to trap and kill or trap and relocate beavers and tell Glenview taxpayers that the land is private property and that Glenview taxpayers have no say? Should it be able to keep a community group from delivering a bundle of branches for the beavers to use to build a new lodge after the old lodge was accidentally dismantled by the HOA's landscapers and the Village of Glenview?


ETA: And what value have we as Glenview taxpayers gained that offsets the loss of $550,000 in property tax revenue that would support our local schools?


Finally, I want to close out by reiterating something I said in the comments yesterday. Whatever you might want to say about the HOA board, and regardless of its status as property owner of the ponds, I very much appreciate its willingness to leave the beavers where they are and just protect the trees. This is a much better outcome for the Glenview beavers than being trapped and killed or trapped and relocated. The beavers are wild animals with strong survival skills and they will instinctively know what to do next. With the news that the parcels of land that hold the retention ponds are actually the property of the Village of Glenview, our focus must shift to working with the Village to keep our beavers safe from being trapped and killed.

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