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Sugar Grove flooding dispute involves neighbors, assessor

SUGAR GROVE – A longstanding dispute between neighbors in Sugar Grove came to a head recently when it also involved an allegation that Sugar Grove Township Assessor Laura Ross misrepresented herself.

According to Ted McKeown of the 300 block of Annette's Lane, Ross and his next-door neighbor, Beverly Elleby, came to his house July 24 to talk about flooding on Elleby's property.

Ross, who recently was elected to her third term as township assessor, said McKeown's account "was completely embellished."

McKeown alleged that Ross led him to believe she represented the village and did not tell him she was the assessor until the end of their discussion. McKeown said Ross tried to pressure him to resolve a flooding issue with Elleby or Ross would report it to the village.

"'You don't want that to happen because they will come out here and bulldoze everything, trees and all and put in commercial grade rocks, and it will look terrible,'" McKeown quoted Ross in a letter he gave to police when he filed a complaint.

"'You have 48 hours to come to an agreement,'" McKeown alleged Ross said in his letter.

"All I can react to is what she said to me under a pressure situation,"  McKeown said. "That is how I reacted, and that is the reason for taking the action I did."

Ross said "the whole thing was blown out of proportion."

"I am very cordial. ... I definitely want to say to Mr. McKeown that I apologize," Ross said.

Ross said she was inspecting Elley's property because she had filed a request to have the assessment reduced because of flooding. Ross said Elleby has had continuing flood problems since McKeown's house was built next to hers in 2001.

Ross said she has been to 25 township residents' properties to consider assessment reductions based on flooding, and Elleby's was one of them. Ross said Elleby's son videotaped the meeting between them.

Ross said she did not have access to the video, and Elleby said she had no comment about the issue with her neighbor, nor about the videotape of their meeting.

Police Chief Patrick Rollins said he referred the issue to the village administrator. Rollins said he would not release the police report McKeown filed.

According to an Aug. 6 letter sent to both Elleby and McKeown, Village Administrator Brent Eichelberger detailed a review by consulting civil engineers, who determined the problem was between the neighbors.

The village's position is to agree that "some refinement of the swale could improve the drainage in the rear and side yards," but it is an issue between private property owners.

Community Development Director Rich Young said a driveway on Elleby's property encroaches on McKeown's property, but nothing was done incorrectly when the houses were built.

"We have drainage questions every year," Young said. "Usually – honestly – it boils down to it's a neighbor-to-neighbor issue."

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