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2011, A NEW BEGINNING

 

A new year; a new beginning.  After a brief respite we are pleased to bring you the latest edition of Property Lines and to introduce you to David Meek, who is of counsel to our firm.  Please take a moment to read A 'Side-Note' About the Author, a brief summary highlighting what David brings to Becker Gurian. 

We look forward to a productive and meaningful 2011. 

Using the Illinois Freedom of Information Act as a Tool for Knowledge

By:  David T. Meek

 

The Illinois Freedom of Information Act ("FOIA") is an under-utilized tool that can enable property owners, developers, builders and investors to easily gather useful information from the vast array of records kept by municipalities and other governmental bodies.   Local governments collect and generate current and historical records about specific properties, including properties for sale and for lease, as well as competitors' properties and government-owned properties.   

 

A well-stated FOIA request can be a powerful device for obtaining a broad variety of pertinent records, including: 

  • Building code citations and health and safety inspection reports.
  • Letters and emails sent by objectors in a zoning case.
  • City council and plan commission minutes concerning a competitor's proposal.
  • Staff reports on pending development projects.
  • Applicant submittals for current projects, as well as terminated projects.
  • TIF expenditures and impact fees payments.
  • Environmental conditions on the property and neighboring properties.
  • 5 and 10 year capital plans for county and township highway improvements.

Information gleaned from public records could be useful in:

  • Assessing the condition of a property prior to bid or during contract due diligence.
  • Researching a prospective tenant's record at another location.
  • Implementing a comprehensive defense strategy in a contested zoning case.
  • Evaluating the issues that were factors in the grant (or denial) of zoning relief.
  • Tracking the evolution of a successful (or defeated) development project.
  • Following the progress of a proposal to designate a TIF or change the boundaries of a zoning district.
  • Monitoring the progress of proposed amendments to local regulations and ordinances.

FOIA requests can be made to any public body, including state, county and municipal governments and their commissions and ad hoc committees, as well as to government agencies such as IDOT and the Environmental Protection Agency.
   

All records in the possession of a public body are required to be made available, even if the FOIA request has a commercial purpose, unless the document falls within a specific exception that protects certain types of confidential information.   For example, FOIA does not allow the release of (1) architectural and engineering plans for private projects, (2) proprietary or confidential information where disclosure may cause competitive harm, (3) bid submissions for public projects prior to award of the contract, and (4) records pertaining to the governmental body's real estate purchase negotiations until closing or termination of the deal. 

 

Even though some types of records are protected from disclosure, there are numerous useful records that a well-crafted FOIA request can unearth.  We can guide you in your pursuit of pertinent information contained in the many documents that are submitted to, and created by, governmental bodies.

 

If you want to learn more, please email us or give us a call.

 

The Bottom Line
 

"Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out."
 -Robert Collier

 

JANUARY 2011

 

 

 

Becker Gurian is a
boutique law firm rich
in experienced, senior- level attorneys that provides skillful economical legal
support services to both entrepreneurial
and institutional commercial, real estate developers,
owners and managers.
Learn more...
 

 

A 'SIDE-NOTE' ABOUT THE AUTHOR

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David T. Meek

David Meek is of counsel to Becker Gurian.  David's practice focuses on the areas of zoning, land use and development law as well as local government law.    He advises developers, land owners and building owners throughout the metro Chicago area on matters ranging from site selection and annexation, to entitlements and easements.   He counsels clients in the creation and implementation of legal and practical strategies for securing favorable municipal approvals, from zoning variances to redevelopment agreements.  David also serves as a commissioner on the Highland Park Housing Commission and has lectured on zoning and real estate law at Northwestern University's School of Law and Kellogg Graduate School of Management.

 

Becker Gurian
513 Central Avenue
Suite 400
Highland Park, Illinois
60035-3264
847-433-2442

 

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This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship.  We would be pleased to provide you with legal counsel.  Call us at 847-433-2442 to discuss your specific needs.
 
2011 Becker Gurian, all rights reserved.  Permission is granted to copy and forward all articles and text as long as proper attribution to Becker Gurian is provided.