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Vil. of Cahokia v. Wright

APRIL 9, 1973.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. BILLY JONES, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied May 9, 1973.

This is an appeal by the plaintiff, Village of Cahokia, from the order of the Circuit Court of St. Clair County, dismissing charges of ordinance violation against the defendants. The defendants' separate causes were consolidated and their motions to dismiss were sustained by the trial court.

There is no dispute as to the facts. Ordinance No. 418, Section 1, amending Part III, Section 3, Paragraph 5, of Ordinance No. 393, entitled "Zoning Ordinance for the Village of Cahokia", provides:

"Except as provided in the following, no person shall be permitted to park or occupy any trailer on any premises in any district outside of an approved trailer park. Emergency or temporary stopping of a trailer shall be allowed on any street, alley, or highway for not longer than two hours subject to any prohibitions, regulations or limitations imposed by the traffic regulations or laws for such street, alley, or highway. Nowhere in the Village of Cahokia, Illinois, shall the wheels of any trailer be permitted to be removed except for repair, nor shall any trailer be permitted to be otherwise permanently fixed to the ground in a manner that would prevent its removal."

The ordinance provides that a fine of up to $200 or imprisonment not to exceed six months or both may be imposed for each violation, and a separate offense is committed on each day during which a violation occurs.

The trailers, owned by the defendants, were placed upon their lots which they owned personally and which were located in an area zoned R-1, viz. single family residences. They were subsequently charged with violating that portion of the zoning ordinance which prohibited persons from parking or occupying any trailer "on any premises in any district outside of an approved trailer park".

The trial court ruled that the ordinance as written and being applied to the defendants was a violation of their constitutional rights and granted their motions to dismiss.

The defendants argue that the ordinance, as applied to them, is a denial of due process and equal protection of the law because the plaintiff does not have the authority to prohibit mobile home owners from using their trailers as residences on their own property. Defendants maintain that the exclusion of individual trailers within the entire village, except in approved trailer parks, is unreasonable as applied to them as mobile home owners.

Defendants allege that Ill. Rev. Stat. 1971, ch. 111 1/2, par. 159, clearly indicates that the legislature recognized that individual trailers have the capability of being transportable as mobile home or statutory permanent homes. That section defines a mobile home and provides in pertinent part that "any such structure resting in whole on a permanent foundation with wheels, tongue and hitch permanently removed, shall not be construed as a `Trailer Coach' or `Mobile home'." It is urged by defendants that Ordinance No. 418 which prohibits the property owner from removing the wheels and tongue from a trailer and affixing said trailer to a permanent foundation is an attempt by the Village of Cahokia to circumvent this legislative intent with respect to these structures.

Defendants cite Rezler v. Village of Riverside (1963), 28 Ill.2d 142, 190 N.E.2d 706, as authority for their argument. That case involved an action to restrain enforcement of a village licensing ordinance for the operation of a trailer park. Plaintiff argued that the ordinance regulating trailer camps was unreasonable because it limited the length of stay in a trailer camp and prohibited the removal of wheels. The ordinance in question treated the removal of the wheels or permanent attachment of the trailer to the ground as a conversion of the trailer into an ordinary residence building, which had to comply with the applicable building and zoning codes.

The Court in Rezler found that the purpose of the ordinance was to prevent permanent occupation of dwelling places which do not conform to the requirements of the building codes. It also found that the State statute (section 159) demonstrated a similar purpose to guard against the use of trailers as permanent dwelling places. The Court then added, at 710-11: "[S]uch an approach to the treatment of trailers has been accepted as reasonable and valid * * *. The responsibility of the municipality is inevitably enlarged as the period of occupancy lengthens. As the occupants approach the status of village residents, their health, education and welfare increasingly become village concerns." Consequently, while the court in Rezler recognized the municipality's right to classify trailers with other habitations serving the same function, it also recognized and gave support to the regulatory ordinance prohibiting the removal of wheels from a trailer. As a result, the Court upheld the regulatory ordinance and held that the village could properly refuse to issue plaintiff a license for the future. Nowhere in that decision was it expressed or implied that a municipality is prohibited from enacting the type of ordinance involved in this case. Rather, the Court heralded the ordinance as a valid attempt by a municipality to prevent a trailer from becoming a permanent residence in violation of the then prevailing building and zoning codes.

Defendants also cite, and the lower court relied upon, City of Sparta v. Brenning (1971), 45 Ill.2d 359, 259 N.E.2d 30, in which case the defendants' principal contention was that the power to limit mobile homes to licensed trailer parks had never been delegated, expressly or implicitly, to municipalities by the General Assembly. They argued that the city ordinance which prohibited them from using their trailers as residences on private plots of land outside of approved trailer parks was a deprivation of property without due process and that it denied them equal protection of the law. Our Supreme Court held that, since the City had not adopted a comprehensive zoning ordinance, the ordinance was not an exercise of the City's zoning power and therefore the City was without authority to enact such an ordinance. The constitutional objections raised by the defendants were not considered by the Court because it found that the authority sought to be exercised by the municipality had not been conferred upon it by the General Assembly. Thus, this case is easily distinguishable from ours in that here the plaintiff enacted the subject ordinance pursuant to a comprehensive zoning plan, while in the City of Sparta v. Brenning, supra, the City attempted to exercise its authority to zone without having adopted a comprehensive zoning ordinance.

The lower court also relied upon City of Belleville v. Leonard (1969), 108 Ill. App.2d 26, 246 N.E.2d 464, as support for its conclusion. In that case, the issue was whether defendants' trailer constituted a legal non-conforming use before the applicable zoning restriction became effective. The court held it did since the record revealed that the defendant had expended considerable time, energy and money readying his property with the expressed intent to place a trailer on a part of it. Since the ordinance in question authorized the continuation of non-conforming uses, that decision, therefore, was concerned only with ...

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