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Forest Preserve District v. Krol

OPINION FILED SEPTEMBER 20, 1957

FOREST PRESERVE DISTRICT OF COOK COUNTY, APPELLEE,

v.

JOHN KROL ET AL., APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EZRA CLARK, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE HERSHEY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Rehearing denied November 19, 1957.

This is an appeal from a condemnation judgment of the circuit court of Cook County which was entered upon a jury verdict awarding the appellants, John Krol and Helen Krol, $100,000 as just compensation for the property in question.

In asking this court to set aside the judgment and order a new trial, the appellants contend: (1) The verdict was inadequate and contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence, (2) the court erred in permitting the appellee to introduce improper evidence, (3) the court erred in refusing evidence regarding the sale of certain property, (4) the giving of certain instructions tendered by the appellee constituted reversible error, and (5) the court erred in denying the appellants' motion for leave to file a cross petition.

The property here condemned for forest preserve purposes is a 105-acre tract situated approximately 25 miles southeast of Chicago and three fourths of a mile south of the village of Lansing in the southeastern part of Cook County. It is subject to the Cook County zoning ordinance and classified in the "F"-farming zone, which permits certain types of business enterprises and single-family dwellings on lots averaging 100-foot widths and having an area of not less than 20,000 square feet.

For more than 20 years the property has been used as an 18-hole public fee golf course. It has a remodeled club house and an underground sprinkling system under each green. A drainage stream runs through the northeast corner of the property, and about 12 acres immediately adjacent to the creek are overflowed during the rainy season. Several acres in the vicinity of the creek are wooded, and the balance of the property is flat, open field.

In the general vicinity are small homes, farms and three other golf courses. The village of Lansing, with an increasing population of 15,000, can only develop south and toward the property here involved. A two-room grade school is located nearby, and in neighboring communities are high schools and parochial schools. Bus transportation is available in Lansing, and railroad suburban services are available in nearby areas.

In 1936, the property was leased by the then owners to Michael and Tom Coyne and thereafter until January 1, 1951, operated by them as a golf course under the name "Lansing Airport Golf Course." On January 1, 1951, a new five-year lease was executed to Tom Coyne providing a term rental of $18,850, payable in installments averaging $3770 a year. The lease provided it could be canceled by the lessor at the end of any playing season if the property was sold. Coyne operated the premises through the 1951 season, and on December 17, 1951, they were sold to the appellants for $75,000. The property continued to be used as a golf course.

The second Coyne lease was admitted in evidence over objection, and the contract for the sale of the property to the appellants was also introduced in evidence over objection.

Three expert witnesses testified on valuation for the appellee: Grover C. Elmore, Floyd G. Dana, and Clem B. Mulholland. No question was raised as to their qualifications. Each stated that the highest and best use for the property as of September 3, 1954, the date the petition was filed, was for a golf course. Dana fixed the value at $82,500, or $785 an acre. Dana fixed the value at $84,000, and Mulholland valued the property at $86,725, or $825 an acre.

The appellants called eight witnesses to testify as to valuation. Each said the highest and best use of the property was for subdivision purposes. Harry Sherrow fixed the value at $2000 an acre ($210,000), John W. Dykstra at $2500 an acre ($262,500), Walter W. Schultz at $2000 an acre, Victor S. Peters at $2500 an acre, William H. Winteroff at $2000 an acre, and James Dirst at $2500 an acre. Richard L. Hoekstra testified regarding his paying $41,500 in 1954 for a comparable 11 1/2-acre tract to be used for subdivision purposes. Witness William J. Main was not permitted to give an opinion on valuation.

Over objection several of the appellants' valuation witnesses were cross-examined as to the cost of wells, septic tanks and streets that would be required for a subdivision in the particular zone. Information as to such costs was elicited from most of said witnesses. None of them had testified to such facts on direct examination.

Victor S. Peters, one of the witnesses for the appellants, was questioned about 40 acres located in the village limits of Lansing which he sold to Frank Swen for subdivision purposes. But the ...


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