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Scott v. City of Springfield

APRIL 27, 1967.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Sangamon County; the Hon. HOWARD L. WHITE, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.


The City of Springfield, defendant, appeals from an injunction obtained by Marguerite Scott, Ralph W. Kettelkamp, Vivienne M. Kettelkamp, Freda E. Jagla and Althea M. Jagla, plaintiffs, restraining the defendant from enforcing the residential classification regulations of the city zoning ordinance against the property of the plaintiffs.

Although the decree does not specify the particular nonresidential use sought, it is clear that the case was tried upon the theory that enforcement of the ordinance to prevent erection of a gasoline filling station upon the plaintiffs' property constituted arbitrary governmental action in violation of plaintiffs' constitutional rights. It is also clear that no attack was made upon the ordinance as such, but rather upon the application of the regulations to plaintiffs' property.

The case was first referred to the Master in Chancery, who made specific findings and recommendations which were approved and followed by the Circuit Court.

The necessary consideration of the facts and circumstances of the case requires a particular description of the neighborhood involved at the present time. Not less important, as an analysis of the cases will demonstrate, is the recorded historical trend. All of the authorities grant to the municipal council great latitude in the enactment and enforcement of zoning regulations, and it has been repeatedly stated that if the net result of the conflicting testimony is that the reasonableness of the regulation is debatable, the action of the municipal council must be sustained. Miller Bros. Lumber Co. v. City of Chicago, 414 Ill. 162, 111 N.E.2d 149. Nevertheless, the action of the municipal council must not be arbitrary, that is, without reason, and in consequence thereof, it must appear to be following some consistent plan or theory which is demonstrably related to the existing fact situation.

In the present case this court must be guided by another consideration which is that where there is evidence to support the findings of the trial court as to specific issues, those findings should be sustained, unless they are against the manifest weight of the evidence. The reasonableness of the classification at issue must be determined from the facts in each case. Hartung v. Village of Skokie, 22 Ill.2d 485, 177 N.E.2d 328.

The subject property consists of three lots having a total frontage of 120 feet on South Sixth Street and a frontage of 152 feet on East Myrtle Street. The lots are improved with residences facing Sixth Street, and the property is located at the southeast corner of the intersection of Sixth Street and Myrtle Street.

The testimony and exhibits are devoted chiefly to an area bounded by Fourth Street on the west, Ninth Street on the east, a railroad viaduct across Sixth Street, which is about five blocks south of Myrtle Street and South Grand Avenue, an east and west street which is five blocks north of the subject property.

The residential character of the area was established by a zoning classification made in 1924, the outstanding exception to which was a transportation company garage and service area at the southeast corner of Sixth and Ash Streets, which is two blocks south of the subject property.

There is testimony that there has been no new residential development in the past ten to fifteen years. This would appear to be an understatement so far as the neighborhood in the immediate area of the surrounding property is concerned. Plaintiffs' photographic exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4 and defendant's photographic exhibits 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, and 9 (identifications as shown in the record) indicate uniformly a much older style house, the majority, if not all of which appear to have been in existence at the time of the zoning classification in 1924. Additionally, the testimony that in the block north of Myrtle on the west side of Sixth Street, which is now occupied by Capitol Bank, five residences, being all of the residences in the block, have been removed would indicate a distinct lack of residential building activity. There is no testimony of any actual new residential development, except Mr. McClernon's testimony that the big two-story houses are hard to sell and are developed into multiple-family dwellings.

The outstanding fact disclosed by the testimony is the proven 40-year trend in the ten-block area on South Sixth Street, being five blocks to the north and five blocks to the south of subject property. It is not possible to consider the effect of a single zoning change in a vacuum. Consideration must be given to the changes which have taken place over a period of years and, most especially, when these changes have been created by, or approved by the municipal authorities. The Master-in-Chancery summarizes the character of the neighborhood as follows:

"The character of the neighborhood with which we are here concerned could well be described as formerly residential but rapidly changing to a commercial area."

We think the record justifies the use of the phrases "formerly residential" and "rapidly changing."

The classifications of the Springfield Ordinance with which we are concerned are A-Residential, being chiefly one and two-family houses; B-Residential, being multiple-family use; C-1, Commercial, which includes retail sales but not filling stations; C-2, Commercial, which includes filling stations and D-Light Industrial, ...

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