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Trendel v. County of Cook





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. THOMAS E. KLUCZYNSKI, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied March 27, 1963.

This is a direct appeal by the defendant County of Cook from a declaratory judgment of the circuit court holding a county zoning ordinance void as applied to certain property owned by plaintiff Elayne D. Trendel. The trial judge has certified that the requisite public interest is involved, and the sole issue here is whether the zoning ordinance is an arbitrary exercise of the police power.

The subject property, owned by plaintiff nine years, comprises approximately 10 acres within an unincorporated area of some 130 acres in Cook County that is surrounded by the city of Des Plaines. The entire unincorporated area is zoned for single-family dwellings on minimum lots of 10,000 square feet. The subject site itself is located in approximately the center of a predominantly vacant area between Mannheim Road on the east and Wolf Road on the west, about 1500 feet from each of those streets. It is an elongated tract, bounded on the south by 362 feet fronting on Oakton Avenue, and extending north 1300 feet to its northern boundary on Forest Avenue, a street in the city of Des Plaines. The site has been used for truck gardening, an accepted use under this zoning, for the past 20 years, and has on it, facing Oakton Avenue, a single-family frame farmhouse about 40 years old.

With respect to the uses of the surrounding area, it appears that to the west the property is used predominantly for truck gardening. There are two nonconforming greenhouse operations with five or six greenhouses each. One of the operations is over 500 feet west and abuts a new development of single-family homes. Further west, between the subject property and Wolf Road, along Oakton Avenue, there are 13 frame or brick single-family dwellings, some old and some new.

To the east, from the subject property to Mannheim Road, the area is predominantly vacant. However, about 1000 feet east there are two single-family homes fronting on Oakton Avenue, and four single-family homes near the corner of Forest Avenue and Mannheim Road. Fronting on Mannheim, 1500 feet east, are a garden supply store and a vacant building formerly occupied by an express company.

South of the subject property along the south side of Oakton Avenue, between Mannheim and Webster Lane, a north-south street which, if continued north across Oakton, would extend through the center of the subject site, the use is truck gardening. Along Webster Lane itself, the use is for single-family homes, mostly of low economic value. Proceeding west along the south side of Oakton there are a few residences, one of which is converted into a small grocery store, and another is used partly as an office of a trailer court. There had been a tavern in a residence, but it is not clear whether it is still in existence. The trailer court itself is about 150 feet south of Oakton Avenue and southwest of the subject site. It is partially screened by landscaping and by the house, and extends southward with about 200 trailers. At the south end of the trailer park, the property is platted for single-family homes. On the corner of Oakton and Wolf Road is West Maine Township High School.

To the north of the subject property and facing Forest Avenue are single-family dwellings valued mostly at $23,000 to $25,000, and some at $30,000. These homes were part of a development of 350 to 400 homes built in 1952. The area for some two miles northward is developed with single-family residences.

Plaintiff proposes to erect nine three-story buildings containing 16 apartments each, or a total of 144 units, half of which will be one-bedroom, and half two-bedroom apartments. The structures will comply with the code requirements for R-5 districts, which include 25-foot set back and sideyards of 10% of the width of the structures. The estimated cost of the site and buildings is $3,500,000.

Both plaintiff and defendant offered testimony of planning and real-estate experts in support of their respective contentions on the validity of the ordinance. Plaintiff's witness William S. Lawrence, a planning consultant, testified that in his opinion the highest and best use of the property is for the "garden-type" apartments; that more intensive use was more suitable in view of the nonconforming uses, such as the greenhouses, the trailer court, the grocery store and the tavern, as well as the low economic value of the homes on Webster Lane. In his judgment single-family houses could not be economically developed, whereas rental units would upgrade the area and would not adversely affect the single-family homes to the north.

Plaintiff's witness Ronald J. Chinnock, a real-estate expert, experienced in appraising for major institutions, expressed a similar opinion as to the highest and best use of the site. He explained that the property could not be economically developed under the present zoning, since the houses would have to be priced at $30,000 to cover costs and profits, and could not be sold for that in the area under market conditions. He also stated that as presently zoned (R-4) the property has a value of $100,000, whereas under the proposed R-5 zoning it would have a value of $150,000.

Defendant's real-estate expert, Richard W. Manke, who had appraised and sold land valued at millions in the northwest suburban area for the past 16 years, stated that in his opinion plaintiff's proposed use would cause a depreciation amounting to over $184,000 in the surrounding properties, including the 10 homes directly north and the 20 homes northwest on Carol Lane, and the eight homes northeast on Second Avenue, as well as the adjacent vacant property, which could be developed under the present zoning into 32 lots. After itemizing the percentages and amounts of the individual property depreciation, he explained that this would be a small part of the overall depreciatory effect of rezoning, since it would lead to further multiple uses and downgrading of the surrounding vacant property in the unincorporated area, and also cause traffic congestion and school overcrowding.

In denying that the nonconforming uses had a deleterious effect making single-family development unsuitable, Manke called attention to the development of single-family homes built adjacent to the greenhouses in the vicinity and elsewhere, and stated that the rapid development of the area would soon render the greenhouses economically obsolete. In his opinion the trailers would have no effect on the subject property since they were not parked on Oakton Avenue, but 150 to 200 feet southwest, and screened by landscaping and buildings. Moreover, they could conceivably be in view of only a small part of the development of the subject site, which would not face Oakton, but would, in view of the elongated shape of the land, extend north and south as a continuation of Webster Lane. He also pointed out that there were 14 or 15 new homes on the north side of Oakton, as close to the trailer park as the subject property, which were built subsequent to its establishment.

He testified further that the fair cash market value of the subject property as presently zoned was $66,000 or $6,600 an acre, in contrast to the $150,000 demanded by plaintiff, and that the highest price paid in the last year for ...

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