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Paulus v. Smith

APRIL 25, 1966.

VAN J. PAULUS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

SIDNEY D. SMITH, ACTING COMMISSIONER OF BUILDINGS OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, WILLIAM P. HOGAN, CHIEF ELECTRICAL INSPECTOR OF THE BUREAU OF ELECTRICAL INSPECTION OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, EDWARD J. BOYLE, ASSISTANT CHIEF ELECTRICAL INSPECTOR OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, CITY OF CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, RITE-LITE NEON SIGN CO., AN ILLINOIS CORPORATION, AND GEORGE ALOISIO, DEFENDANTS, SIDNEY D. SMITH, WILLIAM P. HOGAN, EDWARD J. BOYLE AND CITY OF CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, CERTAIN DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. DANIEL A. COVELLI, Judge, presiding. Reversed and remanded.

MR. JUSTICE MURPHY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

The defendants, City of Chicago and its employees, appeal from a permanent injunction which restrains defendants from (1) revoking a sign permit issued to plaintiff, and (2) from interfering with or preventing plaintiff from proceeding with the completion of the sign erected under the permit. The trial court found the suit to be "an appropriate case for the application of the doctrine of equitable estoppel."

The Municipal Ordinances of the City of Chicago involved in this appeal are section 86.1-15.1 of the Illuminated Signs and Signboards Ordinance and section 10.14 (4) of Chapter 194A of the Zoning Ordinances as they were in effect in June of 1963. The two sections were identical and then read as follows:

"86.1-15.1. No advertising sign shall be permitted within 400 feet of specified public parks, or the main roadway (exclusive of access drives), of a specified major route if the face thereof is visible therefrom, and advertising signs located at a greater distance than 400 feet from such public park or the main roadway (exclusive of access drives) of such major route and visible therefrom shall not exceed in gross area in square feet 1/200 times the square of the distance of such advertising sign from said park, or main roadway of said major route.

"The designated 400 feet shall be measured from the center lines of the streets bounding public parks or the boundary lines of such public parks, whichever applies. As it applies to major routes, the measurement shall be taken from the center lines of such routes. For the purposes of this section . . . major routes shall include the following:

"(b) All expressways. . . ."

Plaintiff, Van J. Paulus, is in the outdoor advertising business. He acquires sites, erects signs and rents them to advertisers.

On June 4, 1963, plaintiff submitted to the Department of Buildings of Chicago two applications for permits for the construction of an advertising sign to be located on property owned by the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul Railroad Company. The first application was for a "Signboard Permit"; the second was for an "Electric Sign" permit. The "Signboard" application stated that the location of the signboard would be 4809-4811 W. Wilson; that plaintiff was the owner; that the area of the signboard would be "H. 20 L. 60 Height above ground 80," and that the signboard would be illuminated; and that drawings were attached. The application date was left blank, and under "Remarks" the words "Railroad Property" were written. The application was certified by plaintiff as owner and by Rite-Lite Neon Sign Co. by George S. Aloisio as sign erector. It contains the following certification above the signatures: "The undersigned certify that the statements in this application are true and correct and that all work done under the proposed permit will conform to the requirements of the Chicago Municipal Code." All this appeared on the application when submitted.

The "Electric Sign" application shows the same address for the location, the same dimensions for the sign, and Rite-Lite Neon Sign Co. as the "electrical contractor" and "sign erector." George Aloisio's name also appears under the certification that the statements "are true and correct and that all work done under the proposed permit will conform to the requirements of the Chicago Municipal Code."

We note here that on July 2, 1963, plaintiff also submitted to the City two applications for permits to construct a second signboard, an electric sign, on the railroad's right-of-way. These applications were made out substantially the same as those for the first signboard and sign, and on the same day that applications were approved and permits issued. Sign No. 2 is not involved in these proceedings because no work had been commenced on it.

Although it affirmatively appears on the application for "Signboard Permit" No. 1 that drawings were attached, it was approved on June 4, 1963, without any drawings. The first drawing was for the sign support structure, and it is dated June 15, 1963. All drawings were prepared on orders from John J. Tolash, d/b/a John's Iron Works and Welding Company. Notwithstanding the applications for sign No. 1 were signed by Rite-Lite Neon Sign Co., a registered electrical contractor and a bonded sign erector, Tolash erected the structural steel framework and placed the order for its prefabrication. The record indicates the erection of the structural steel framework was completed August 7, 1963.

Plaintiff testified that he always intended to have the sign built by Tolash, but that he did not inform anyone in the Building Department as to who was going to build the structure. He asked Tolash to sign the application, and "Tolash said he wasn't bonded or insured. . . . I was not trying to conceal from the City who was actually going to build this sign structure."

On August 17, 1963, the Chicago Sign Erecting Company, Inc., a licensed sign contractor, applied facings consisting of thick plywood prepainted sections to the framework. On August 20, 1963, City Inspector O'Donnell reported to Assistant Chief Electrical Inspector Boyle that the plaintiff's sign (No. 1) had been erected in violation of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance. Boyle commenced an inquiry and requested a report from the Zoning Bureau. This report was submitted on the same day and concluded that the sign did violate the ordinance in that "the sign was less than the required 400 feet from an expressway." After further investigation and on August 21, 1963, Boyle telephoned Rite-Lite Neon Sign Co. and spoke to Aloisio. "I told him that the electrical permits were going to be cancelled. He said that his firm was not going to do the electrical work and he did not know who was going to do it. He further said that they had not installed the structure and he did not know who had installed it. He stated that he had applied for the permits as an accommodation for the plaintiff. All he knew about the plaintiff, he said, was the plaintiff was in advertising. He sounded a bit perturbed or disgusted over the phone. He said he wished he had not taken the permit out, that it was an accommodation permit."

After several conferences with Acting Commissioner Smith, Boyle was directed by Smith to cancel the permits. "I then wrote a letter of cancellation to Mr. Aloisio [dated August 21, 1963] and sent a copy of it to the plaintiff. I included all permits in the revocation [signs Nos. 1 and 2]." The letter of cancellation included: "The Rite-Lite Neon Sign Company is hereby directed to remove the signboard structure erected on the premises of 4809-11 W. Wilson Avenue, within ten days. Failure on the part of the Rite-Lite Neon Sign Company to comply with this directive shall result in the necessary action being instituted to enforce compliance." ...


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