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Mobil Oil Corp. v. City of Rockford

NOVEMBER 20, 1972.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Winnebago County; the Hon. FRED J. KULLBERG, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied December 27, 1972.

Plaintiffs applied to the City of Rockford for a rezoning of specific property, owned by the individual plaintiffs but optioned to the Mobil Oil Corporation, and requested that said Corporation be permitted to erect a gasoline station on such property. A committee of aldermen recommended the zoning change but the Council as a whole rejected the recommendation by a vote of 12 to 8. Plaintiffs then brought an action for declaratory judgment seeking to have a certain zoning ordinance of the City of Rockford declared invalid as applied to plaintiffs' property. The validity of the ordinance was upheld, the requested relief denied and plaintiffs appeal.

Plaintiffs' property is located in the southeast quadrant of the five-point intersection indicated on the following diagram. (See p. 651.)

The intersection and surrounding streets are presently the subject of an improvement plan which will convert the site to a four-point intersection. In execution of the plan, part of plaintiffs' property will be taken. Median strips will be installed to bar vehicles from crossing the road except at designated points.

Testimony revealed that these intersecting streets are now, and will remain, some of the most heavily travelled in the City.

The property in question, part of the Log Cabin Arbor Subdivision, is

comprised of four lots facing Alpine Road plus a 45-foot extension into the three lots immediately east (facing Silvan Road) which lots are also owned by plaintiffs. The Alpine Road lots are zoned for local business; the Silvan Road lots (and all property east for several blocks) are zoned A-residential.

Local business zoning permits property to be used for hospitals, auto courts, roofing and plastering shops, printing shops, restaurants (not drive-in types), plumbing shops, hotels, dairies, dyeing and cleaning works, laundries, banks, laboratories, electrical repair shops and 31 other businesses.

The ordinance pertinent to general commercial districts (sec. 44-11) deviates in form from the preceding zoning ordinances and, rather than setting forth permissible uses, lists ten prohibitions, the tenth reading:

"Any manufacture or treatment whatsoever, except such light manufactures as are carried on within entirely enclosed buildings and which create no objectionable noise, odor, smoke, fumes, vapor, dust, or gas. Nothing in this section shall be deemed to exclude a newspaper establishment, a car barn, auction rooms, battery service stations, gasoline and oil stations, parking lots and used car lots — commercial, public garages, tin smith shops, tire repairing shops, drive-in amusement places, drive-in recreation buildings, drive-in restaurants, or an electric sub-station from a general commercial district."

During trial, the staff director of the City-County Planning Commission testified on behalf of the City and distinguished the zoning classifications stating that the local business classification permitted businesses primarily intended for neighborhood convenience, those which were generally considered of less nuisance than businesses permitted in the general commercial district. The latter types were said to be those businesses which are highway or automobile oriented and characterized by noise and light. The same witness stated that there was concern for maintaining the residential character of the subdivision and that the local business classification of the subject lots was more compatible to that intent than a general commercial classification.

The record indicates that within the immediate and/or general area of the intersection, and on property zoned identically to plaintiffs', there is a large shopping center, a drive-in cleaner, a realty office, pizza, chicken and hamburger eating places, a tire dealer, a super market and a franchise donut shop. In the area just northwest of the intersection, two gas stations are also established on property zoned for local business.

Immediately west of the intersection (directly opposite the property here in question) and in an area running generally northwest to southeast, various properties have been zoned to the general commercial classification. Thereon are located such businesses as a restaurant, an automobile center, a realtor and four gas stations. One gas station is across ...

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