While there are legal problems that could be challenged in court, the “will of the people was clear” when they voted Aug. 9 to reject all options for a new Wheatland Township Hall, township attorney Keri-Lyn Krafthefer told trustees Wednesday night.
She advised the board to start the process of selling the land on which the new town hall building was to be built, per the direction of the nearly 200 people who attended .
“The electors present at the meeting wanted to abandon the (new) town hall building,” Krafthefer, a partner with the Ancel Glink law firm in Chicago, said. “The electors are thinking they properly directed you to sell it.”
In her written opinion, she said: “The best course of action is … to begin the process of the sale, which will likely take a long time, and to correct and ratify the electors’ improper actions at the next regular town meeting in April, or to do so at an earlier special town meeting should that be necessary.”
Taking Krafthefer’s advice, the board directed her to send a letter to Naperville officials asking if they want to purchase back two of the four acres they sold to the township for $700,000 in 2008. Under the sale contract, Naperville has the right of first refusal; if it does not want the land, the township is free to sell it to someone else.
Two of the acres on 95th Street, just off Route 59, were used to build a new township highway department building, and the other two were to be used for a 7,300-square-foot, $1.5 million town hall – until residents at the began efforts to stop to those plans.
Township Supervisor Todd Morse has maintained the residents’ meeting was held illegally, and he asked Krafthefer for the legal opinion.
During the board meeting, Morse voiced two opinions on the trustees’ options. At one point, he suggested it might be better to keep the land and use it for a park or soccer fields. Later in the meeting, he seemed ready to concede defeat.
“Just move on. Sell the property and give it up,” he said to board member Doug Haddad, who feared that selling the land in this economic climate would mean the township would not recoup the $100,000 spent on engineering for the new building.
Morse refused to comment further after the meeting, saying, “I’m not going to talk to you. I’ve been advised that I shouldn’t talk to you.”
He declined to say who had advised him. When asked if it was an attorney, he said, “I didn’t say that.”
Per the residents’ vote on Aug. 9, any money made from the sale is to be used to renovate the existing town hall building at 31W236 91st St. in Naperville. The township straddles large parts of Naperville and Plainfield.
While the township supervisor’s and assessor’s offices are quite cramped in their current state, resident Deb Holscher said there is plenty of room to expand into now-vacant areas previously used as truck bays for the township highway department.