Utica isn’t quite finished battling Grand Bear vacation homeowners, who had sued the village and argued an 18-year-old annexation agreement keeps them from renting their units using AirBNB.
Monday, La Salle County Circuit Judge Troy D. Holland issued a ruling that largely sided with Utica – Holland was asked to rule on nine counts and threw out eight – but did preserve the owners’ right to pursue a claim they were treated differently than other vacation owners.
“The case isn’t over yet,” said Village Attorney Herb Klein. “Obviously, we’re pleased with the fact the judge ruled with the village on the overwhelming majority of counts.”
More than a dozen of those own vacation homes at Grand Bear Resort at Starved Rock (formerly Grand Bear Lodge) had sued for the right to rent out their homes on a short-term basis. The homeowners struck out in federal court and then sued in La Salle County, arguing Grand Bear’s annexation agreement with Utica included a lodge-run rental pool they believed was restrictive.
(The dispute became an issue at Utica’s spring elections.)
In a Monday ruling, Holland sided with the village and said he could find no language in the annexation agreement that requires the village to let the owners engage in short-term rentals.
“To the contrary,” the judge wrote, “the plain language of the annexation agreement, in several different paragraphs, reserves the right for (Utica) to amend its zoning ordinance and that other village codes, ordinances and regulations shall apply to the development.”
But it wasn’t a clean sweep for Utica. Holland declined to throw out the owners’ argument they were denied equal protection under the Illinois Constitution.
Plaintiffs attorney Michael A. Kraft of Lombard said he was “certainly encouraged” by Holland’s ruling.
“While there were a number of legal theories addressed in the court’s order,” Kraft said, “the claims that were not dismissed go to the genesis of the plaintiffs’ arguments, which was their constitutional rights are being violated.”
Holland granted Kraft and the owners time to file an amended complaint and set a status hearing for Sept. 15.