Appeal from the Circuit Court of DuPage County, Eighteenth
Judicial District, County Division; the Hon. WILLIAM GUILD,
Judge, presiding. Affirmed and remanded.
MR. JUSTICE DAVIS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.
This eminent domain proceeding was brought by the plaintiff, Lombard Park District, to condemn six parcels of real estate, including the two involved in this appeal. During the course of the trial, the court excluded the testimony of three of the defendants' expert valuation witnesses because their conclusions were based upon a supposed highest and best use not consistent with the zoning regulations, and not based upon any use permitted by any reasonably probable rezoning. Thereafter, the trial court granted the defendants' motion for a new trial on the ground that it had erred in rejecting this testimony. We granted the plaintiff's petition for leave to appeal.
The sole issue before this court is the extent to which an expert valuation witness may base his opinion on the highest and best use not permitted by existing zoning regulations.
The compensation to which a landowner is entitled in the event of the condemnation of his land is its fair cash market value for its highest and best use at the time the condemnation petition is filed. Department of Public Works and Buildings v. Rogers, 39 Ill.2d 109, 113, 233 N.E.2d 409 (1968); City of Chicago v. Giedraitis, 14 Ill.2d 45, 49, 150 N.E.2d 577 (1958). The highest and best use is that to which the property is presently adapted, even though it is not at the time being applied to such use. Housing Authority of City of East St. Louis v. Kosydor, 17 Ill.2d 602, 606, 162 N.E.2d 357 (1959).
Just compensation to which the landowner is entitled under section 13 of article 2 of the State Constitution and under section 1 of the Eminent Domain Act (Ill Rev Stats 1967, c 47, par 1) has been defined as the amount of money necessary to put him in as good condition financially as he was with the ownership of the property and as a sum of money that is equivalent to the value of the property. (Housing Authority v. Kosydor, supra 605.)
Market value is the price which the property would bring if it were offered by a willing seller to a willing buyer. (Housing Authority v. Kosydor, supra 606.) The market value to which he is entitled is for the most profitable use for which the land is available, including any present capacity for future use which may be anticipated with reasonable certainty and made the basis of an intelligent estimate of value. Super-Power Co. of Illinois v. Sommers, 352 Ill. 610, 618, 186 N.E. 476 (1933); Illinois Light & Power Co. v. Bedard, 343 Ill. 618, 626, 627, 175 N.E. 851 (1931). As pointed out by the court in Bedard, the most common example is found in farmland situated in the direction of growth of nearby municipalities. Long before subdivision and development become an actuality, the land may have a value substantially greater than its present value for agricultural purposes, and such value is existent and very real for informed sellers and buyers.
Until recently, our courts, while recognizing the principles set forth above, had not announced whether the highest and best use determined in arriving at market value might include a use which would not be permitted under existing zoning restrictions. In Park Dist. of Highland Park v. Becker, 60 Ill. App.2d 463, 468, 208 N.E.2d 621 (1965) we held that it is proper that the "reasonable probability" of rezoning in the near future be taken into consideration in a determination of just compensation. The Supreme Court, in Department of Public Works and Buildings v. Rogers, supra, 112, 113, specifically approved the reasoning of the Becker case and stated that the reasonable probability of rezoning is a proper factor to consider in establishing value.
The questions remain: what type of evidence, and under what circumstances may evidence of probable rezoning be admitted? Possible rezoning is relevant only if it reflects some value in the land because of a present capacity for future use which may be anticipated with reasonable certainty and which may be made the basis of an intelligent estimate of value. Stated differently, if the possibility of rezoning is too speculative, it should not be considered in determining the value of the condemned property.
In Becker, this court held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in refusing to permit an attorney to testify as a "zoning expert" with reference to his opinion that there was a strong possibility of obtaining rezoning of the property in question. This court observed that real estate appraisers had already testified as to the probability of rezoning and to the highest and best use of the property that which would be permitted if such rezoning were obtained.
Subsequently, in Department of Public Works and Buildings v. Rogers, 78 Ill. App.2d 141, 223 N.E.2d 177 (1967), (affd 39 Ill.2d 109, 233 N.E.2d 409 (1968)), this court again held that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in excluding the opinion testimony of a lawyer, who had extensive background in zoning, eminent domain and real estate matters, as to the probability of a particular rezoning. We there held that it was not error to exclude purported expert opinion testimony of what a particular legislative body is going to do.
We also held in Rogers that the trial court erred in refusing to admit into evidence testimony relating to both the rezoning of a nearby tract of land along the same thoroughfare shortly prior to the time in question, and the ordinance of rezoning, even though the rezoning was of a substantially larger tract and for a different purpose. We held that such evidence was admissible as tending to show the flexibility of the particular zoning ordinance and, thus, was relevant as to the reasonable probability of rezoning the tract in question.
The substance of these decisions is that it is proper to base value upon the highest and best use permitted not only under existing zoning limitations but also under other zoning limitations where there is a reasonable probability of the granting of such zoning in the near future. It is not proper, however, to present a witness as an expert solely to testify to the probability of a particular rezoning. Such "expertise" is not recognized by our courts.
Valuation witnesses, however, must of necessity, relate their testimony to a reasonable probability of rezoning if the use upon which they base the market value is not permitted under the existing zoning restrictions. In most instances, it will be necessary for them to state that they based their valuation opinion upon a reasonable probability of rezoning. Whether or not their opinion as to valuation will be permitted to stand will depend on whether there is ...