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Cook County Addresses Unincorporated Pockets

by Chicago Agent

As large and dense as Cook County is, it still contains miles of unincorporated areas.

A new task force created by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle is targeting the few unincorporated areas in the county for annexation.

An extension of a plan from 2011 that involved an unfulfilled $150 surcharge for the 98,200 residents that live in unincorporated Cook County, the Cook County Unincorporated Task Force, as it’s called, recommended this week that neighboring towns and villages annex the unincorporated lands into their borders and cover the costs of residential services, such as lights, curbs and even sewage, which many of the areas lack.

“I am grateful to the task force for its hard work tackling a complicated and controversial issue,” said President Preckwinkle. “It’s clear that in order to reduce our staggering budget deficit, and maintain value for taxpayers, we need to move toward the goals outlined in this report, and eliminate the unincorporated areas of Cook County.”

According to a Chicago Real Estate Forum report on the task force, although only 6.5 percent of Cook County’s 945 square miles are unincorporated, they are scattered across the county in little pockets that amount to 62 square miles of land.

The task force’s recommendations have both sides of the aisle worried – municipalities are balking at having to pay for the unincorporated areas’ amenities, and the areas are worried their property taxes will increase with the annexation. To address the two biggest issues, which are housing and police services, the task force has agreed to serve an additional six months to work out a compromise.

“[I]f all goes as planned, there will be no more unincorporated areas of Cook County within the next decade,” the Forum’s report noted.

The task force’s main recommendations included the immediate goals of annexing unincorporated areas smaller than 60 acres or 100 residents; improving code enforcements on substandard building conditions; better defining what police services are provided in unincorporated areas; and seeking local funding to assist in the annexation.

For the near future, the task force recommended municipalities begin annexing larger areas with more than 60 acres or 100 residents and finding a way to cover the costs of services to those areas, and for long-term goals, it recommended no large-scale construction projects in unincorporated areas that do not meet municipal standards and to pursue intergovernmental agreements among municipalities for specific services to unincorporated areas where annexation is not possible.

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