By Dean Rouso
Mainstreet Organization of Realtors
The Mainstreet Organization of Realtors (MORe), formerly the Realtors Association of West/South Suburban Chicagoland, has seen dramatic changes in the last few months. Not only have we launched a new name and identity, but we’ve had tremendous results in the government affairs arena.
Below is a brief synopsis of what MORe has accomplished regarding transfer taxes, tear-down ordinances and a new zoning initiative. MORe has worked tirelessly for positive results. Our achievements are supported by the expertise of the extremely active government affairs department under the leadership of Jeff Merrinette, government affairs director north, and Tom Joseph, government affairs director south. Each works with his respective government affairs committees, which are comprised of your fellow Realtors. Between the two government affairs directors, MORe is highly visible in the communities we serve, helping to protect private property rights.
Calumet City: In recent years, Calumet City illegally stopped issuing transfer stamps to sellers of legal multifamily buildings in areas zoned for single-family units as an attempt to force homeowners to de-convert properties back to single-family units. Last year, MORe took Calumet City to federal court, and the court ruled the city was guilty of unreasonable restraint and suspended its point-of-sale inspection. The federal court ordered Calumet City to develop a new ordinance. However, that ordinance was not accepted by the federal court as it still required such properties to submit to a point-of-sale inspection to obtain a transfer stamp. Calumet City is appealing this ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit. MORe expects a decision by the end of the year. The federal court has affirmed that the non-issuance of real estate transfer tax stamps, along with the point-of-sale inspection, does not allow a local government to obstruct a transfer of property.
Calumet Park: The village is interfering and obstructing the transfer of property regarding “as-is” sales. MORe is lobbying the village to correct the situation.
Dolton: The Village of Dolton, in recent years, halted “as-is” home sales and required home sellers to perform cosmetic improvements. In December 2005, the U.S. District Court in Chicago agreed with MORe that the village should reinstate “as-is” sales and also limit point-of-sale inspections to health and safety issues.
Additionally, the Federal court agreed that the non-issuance of the transfer stamp is not legal. These two “victories” in federal court have allowed MORe, in partnership with the Illinois Association of Realtors (IAR) and the National Association of Realtors (NAR), to re-establish private property rights. Recently, Dolton has attempted to reinstate a 1993 ordinance requiring a real estate transfer tax even after they apparently rescinded it in 1996 with a flat fee real estate water tax. Per MORe’s government affairs efforts, we have obtained documents that question the legality of this, and it is being reviewed by IAR counsel in Springfield.
Downers Grove: MORe successfully assisted Downers Grove with the updating of the zoning code. The culmination of a two-year project, lot coverage, height, drainage and setbacks all were rewritten.
LaGrange: MORe has provided testimony and expert advice to the Village of LaGrange to update its zoning code. Areas addressed included lot area coverage, height, drainage and setbacks. Through our collaboration, LaGrange is developing a new zoning code that brings variety and choice to homeowners and future generations of residents.
Markham: MORe is currently working with the Village of Markham regarding a real estate transfer tax. Markham passed a transfer tax without going to referendum. This violates current state law. MORe is lobbying the Village to repeal this offending transfer tax.
South Chicago Heights: The Village of South Chicago Heights implemented an ordinance that requires any multi-unit property that is vacant for six months or longer must be de-converted to its original use. This would appear to limit the use of legal non-conforming multi units. MORe government affairs department is using the Calumet City court case to educate and work with the Village of South Chicago Heights to end this potential abuse.
West Chicago: The City of West Chicago has attempted to pass two illegal transfer taxes. Currently, the city has passed an ordinance that requires the payment of the water bill and imposes an inspection, threatening to stop closings if homeowners do not comply. MORe has attempted to negotiate with the city on several occasions, but the issue remains unresolved. We have joined with IAR to file a lawsuit against the city to vacate the ordinance.
Monee and Manhattan: Both villages have recently attempted to pass, by referendum, a real estate transfer tax for the sole purpose of obstructing the transfer of property with its point-of-sale inspection. Realtor advocacy by MORe defeated both referenda. The Calumet and Dolton cases referenced above explain why we must monitor home rule referendums and real estate transfer tax referendums.
The Mainstreet Organization of Realtors (formerly Realtor Association of West/South Suburban Chicagoland) is the trusted resource for the real estate professional. For nearly 100 years, MORe has provided leadership that empowers members to reach their professional goals.