Does Existence of Annexation Agreement Demonstrate That a Property Is Not Entitled to Disconnection ?

In Gaylor v. Village of Ringwood, 363 Ill. App. 3d 543, 548, 842 N.E.2d 1241, 299 Ill. Dec. 889 (2006), the landowners entered into an annexation agreement with a village to annex about 23 acres of property into the village. The agreement contemplated that the landowners would develop the property, and it had a 20-year term. the agreement did not address disconnection. During the 20-year term of the annexation agreement, the landowners petitioned for disconnection from the village's municipal boundaries. The village, in an answer and counterclaim, sought to enforce the agreement. Subsequently, the parties stipulated that the landowners' proposed disconnection satisfied the six conditions in section 7--3--6 of the Code. On cross-motions for summary judgment, the trial court granted disconnection. On appeal, this court first addressed the statutory interpretation question and held, as we quoted above, that section 7--3--6 requires the trial court, before ordering disconnection, to find both that the six statutory requirements are satisfied and that the property is otherwise entitled to disconnection. Gaylor, 363 Ill. App. 3d at 548. Further, this court held that section 7--3--6 "necessarily contemplates the interposition of an affirmative defense" in the determination of whether a property is entitled to disconnection. Gaylor, 363 Ill. App. 3d at 549. This court then held in the alternative that, even if section 7--3--6 did not afford a party the opportunity to raise an affirmative defense to a disconnection petition, such an opportunity did exist, at least in regard to the facts before the court. Gaylor, 363 Ill. App. 3d at 549. This court concluded that the existence of the annexation agreement presented an affirmative defense to the disconnection petition or estopped the landowners from petitioning for disconnection. Gaylor, 363 Ill. App. 3d at 549-50 ("the freedom of parties to contract away statutory rights would allow an existing annexation agreement to be considered as an affirmative defense or an estoppel of a party's right to seek disconnection"). Accordingly, this court held that the village established that the property was not entitled to disconnection and we reversed the trial court's judgment. Gaylor, 363 Ill. App. 3d at 550. This court emphasized that the cases cited by the parties were factually distinguishable because none addressed a scenario in which landowners attempt "to disconnect while an annexation agreement is st ill in force and the [village] raises the annexation agreement as an affirmative defense to demonstrate that the [landowners'] property is not entitled to disconnection. This factual difference renders this case of first impression to which the authority cited by the parties provides little guidance." Gaylor, 363 Ill. App. 3d at 550.