Sequoia Drive Plat Never Filed Leads to Some of the Delays in South Jacksonville Cell Tower Easements

By Benjamin Cox on November 18, 2023 at 6:19am

A land document created more than twenty years ago for the Village of South Jacksonville that was never filed at the Morgan County Courthouse is holding up a major project.

The Village of South Jacksonville administration has been arguing over 4 separate easements that are being asked for by AT&T to construct a cell phone tower on West Vandalia for over a month. The status of the easements were last placed into the hands of attorneys after agreements couldn’t be reached at an October village board meeting.

The Board of Trustees revisited the questions surrounding the easements Thursday night after it was discovered that the land plat for the village’s property on Sequoia Drive was never filed in 2001.

Engineer Jim Burke of Hutchison Engineering who formerly worked on the village’s zoning board of appeals and was a part of the group that originally surveyed the Coultas property that became the village’s EMS building could offer no explanation as to why the document was never filed: “It went through the Plans Commission and it went through the board [at that time], and it was built just like any other subdivision. Once it’s built, before you can sell the lots, you have to record it. Then, you come back and normally what you do when it comes back, they sign an affidavit saying all the improvements that we had in our preliminary plans that we showed are done. Please sign my plat so I can sell my lots. At that time, all of that street infrastructure then becomes the village’s too and that’s why they have to be built to certain standards.”

Due to the plat not being approved in village ordinances and not being filed, the current board of trustees are expected to pass the plat and file it after another special meeting on November 30th.

Village President Dick Samples says that after a thorough explanation by Burke to AT&T’s Chris Warwick, who was in attendance Thursday night, he believes the utility easement issues are likely complete: “I would believe that the issues are complete. The way they were talking [Thursday] night, it may prove that I’ve been right all this time on the idea that the village doesn’t need to grant any easements. I’m not saying that I’ve been right for the correct reasons, but they don’t need, in my opinion, an easement down the middle of [Sequoia Drive]. We can’t give them an easement on their ground. My biggest contention right now is that why are we dealing with AT&T when they don’t own the property. Illinois Power/Ameren-Illinois owns the property. They are the ones we should be dealing with.” Samples says once the plat is voted on, approved, and filed that the issues should be finished.

Samples says he anticipates the vote on the plat to be unanimous. As the plat currently stands now, Sequoia Drive is currently a private driveway despite the layout and filings with the E-9-1-1 board and labeling in the county’s GIS system.

Warwick told the trustees that he would take the plat back to AT&T’s engineers and surveyors and see if there was still need for lawyers to speak on an agreement on any of the 4 outstanding utility easements to power and connect the proposed cell phone tower.