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City of Evanston v. Robbins

DECEMBER 5, 1969.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Second Municipal District; the Hon. FRANCIS GLOWACKI, Magistrate, presiding. Affirmed.


Rehearing denied January 29, 1970.

Plaintiff, City of Evanston, appeals from a judgment of the Circuit Court, finding the defendant, Jay Robbins, not guilty on a quasi-criminal complaint for violation of the zoning ordinance by maintaining a multiple dwelling in a district zoned for single-family dwellings.

Defendant's answer to the complaint denied the violation, alleged that the use was legally nonconforming and alleged, as affirmative defenses, facts purporting to show that plaintiff was estopped to assert a violation of the ordinance and that the ordinance, as applied to this property, was arbitrary and without relation to public health and welfare and was unconstitutional.

The record incorporates testimony directed to the issue of estoppel and to the validity of the ordinance as applied to the property concerned. Certain comments by the court are incorporated into the record, including:

". . . On the basis of everything that I have heard here, I must be forced to discharge the complaint."

The judgment entered was not guilty. The court's recorded statements were directed to the fact that multiple use had existed for 25 years, that the City had inspected the residence as a multiple-family residence and had affirmatively directed defendant to make corrections based upon multiple-residence requirements. The court expressed belief that the City's conduct fell within the doctrine of estoppel.

Estoppel may be invoked against a municipality where the action of a party is induced by the conduct of municipal officers with the result, that in the absence of relief such party would suffer substantial detriment or loss and the municipality would be permitted to stultify itself by retracting what its agents had done. Cities Service Oil Co. v. City of Des Plaines, 21 Ill.2d 157, 171 N.E.2d 605, and the cases cited therein.

The subject property is located at the northeast corner of Ridge Ave., a north and south street, and Lake Street, an east and west street. A substantial area east and north of the subject property is either R-4, general residence, R-6, general residence, R-7, general residence, B-2, business, B-3, business, B-4, business, C-2, commercial, or C-3, commercial. The subject property is thus at the southwest corner of an area which is zoned for multiple-family use, apartments and business. Immediately south of the property for one and one-half blocks, the area is zoned R-1, single-family residence. Farther south the classification is R-6 and R-3. Commencing one and one-half blocks east on the south side of Lake Street, the area is again R-3, R-6 and B-2. To the west for two and one-half blocks, the classification is R-1 and this strip of two to three blocks wide is R-1 for about one-half mile north and one-half mile south of the subject property. The foregoing general characteristics are shown by the zoning map.

The immediate block in which the subject property is located is zoned R-6 in the east half and R-1 in the west half. Commencing with the subject property and proceeding east on Lake Street is a structure with two townhouse units which is legally nonconforming. Immediately east is another that is a legal nonconforming use. Immediately east, the classification in the block changes to R-6, and there is a ten-unit apartment building. Thus, on the north side of Lake Street, between Ridge Ave. and Oak Ave., the subject property is the only property which would be required to be conforming and single family. The balance of the east side of the block going north on Oak Ave. consists of three large homes used as multiple-family units and one additional ten-unit apartment building. In the west half of the block, commencing on the north at Grove Street, is a church which appears to occupy half of the block. South of the church is a two-family home; next, a single-family home occupied by the defendant, and next is the subject property.

The only testimony regarding the block immediately west of the subject property is that an Armenian Bishop uses the building and has one student roomer. The answer states:

"(c) The block west of defendant's block: the property immediately west of defendant's dwelling is utilized as a home for a religious order with multiple occupancy. The northeast corner of said block is utilized for church purposes. The middle portion of the block is used for a single-family dwelling."

The answer states as to the balance of the area:

"(d) The block northwest of defendant's block: the Ridge Avenue frontage is occupied by institutional ...

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