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Stalzer v. Village of Matteson

OCTOBER 1, 1973.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. EDWARD F. HEALY, Judge, presiding.


Richard A. Stalzer and Lawrence A. Stocking, Jr. (plaintiffs) brought an action for declaratory judgment and other relief against Village of Matteson, a municipal corporation (defendant.) Plaintiffs sought to invalidate a zoning ordinance of defendant as applicable to real estate owned by them. The trial court granted the relief prayed, found the ordinance invalid in its application to plaintiffs' property and directed issuance of necessary permits to plaintiffs for the use of the property which they sought. Defendant appeals.

In this court, defendant contends that a property owner attacking a zoning ordinance has the burden of overcoming the presumption of validity of the ordinance by clear and convincing evidence. Defendant urges that plaintiffs' purchase of the subject property in the face of existing and established single family residential zoning is a factor to be considered in determination of whether such zoning is confiscatory or discriminatory; plaintiffs have thereby placed themselves in a less favorable position; since plaintiffs purchased with knowledge of the existing zoning, it is reasonable to assume that they paid a price commensurate with that use and plaintiffs cannot now claim that the ordinance is confiscatory; if there be hardship to plaintiffs, they deserve no relief in view of their previous knowledge of the zoning and this is especially true when the apartment development proposed by plaintiffs would violate the dependence of adjoining homeowners on the continuance of the zoning and there is evidence that the proposed use would damage the value of their homes.

Defendant also urges that the proposed use would bring more people and automobiles into the area with increased traffic congestion, danger and noise; there are ample apartment developments and land zoned for apartments in Matteson and where there is a legitimate difference of opinion with factors which point in each direction, upon which reasonable men might differ, with evidence of loss in market value likely to result to nearby residences and use of the subject property for residential purposes is feasible, the court should not disturb the legislative decision of the municipality as to zoning.

Plaintiffs urge that the presumption of validity of the ordinance applies only to the existing zoning classification; the finding of the trial court that the R-1 classification is void, does not cause the zoning to revert to its prior R-2 classification but the effect of the judgment is to leave the property unzoned and the court must then consider whether the proposed use is reasonable. Plaintiffs contend that it is significant that none of the experts who testified consider the present R-1 zoning of the subject property to be its highest and best use; the R-1 classification is unreasonable because it prohibits construction of apartments on the subject property; the railroad north of the property is at grade level and it is adapted to services and encourages industries on its land immediately to the north of the subject property which is a strong factor in favor of the use proposed by plaintiffs and the existence of a difference of opinion among the witnesses does not necessarily mean that the court must find that reasonableness of the ordinance is debatable but it is for the court to determine from all the evidence whether the differences of opinion are reasonable and justifiable. Plaintiffs further urge that they did not purchase the property in the face of R-1 zoning which was adopted after their purchase; the findings of the trial court should not be disturbed unless opposite conclusions are clearly evident; the zoning classification must bear a substantial relation to the public welfare and there is no evidence in the record that the subject property could be profitably developed under its present zoning.

The subject property, rectangular in shape, is entirely within the defendant Village, east of Main Street. The north line of the property runs slightly over 1330 feet east from Main Street to the eastern line of the Village limits. The south boundary runs parallel with the north, approximately the same distance. The west line is slightly over 340 feet and fronts on the east side of Main Street. The east line is also some 340 feet and is part of the east Village boundary.

The entire property consists of slightly over ten acres. It has not been subdivided and it is vacant except for a residence some 70 years old fronting on Main Street in the western portion of the tract. Immediately to the west of the property there is an irregularly shaped area zoned for industrial use; I-1 under defendant's ordinance. The same zoning exists in the strip of property immediately to the north. On the east boundary of the subject property there is a wide surface drainage ditch located within the Village of Park Forest. Immediately to the south of the subject property there are a series of single family homes zoned R-2. These homes front upon both the north and south sides of 218th Street. The subject property is thus located to the rear of those on the north side.

Commencing about 1943, the subject property was zoned for industrial uses under the classification I-1. The defendant's ordinances provide that this classification is intended for heavy commercial and light manufacturing and industrial uses under controls which would minimize adverse effects on property in nearby residential and business districts. The property was devoted to farming uses from 1943 to approximately 1959. On August 7, 1961, the property was zoned R-2 (Ordinance No. 538.) About in May of 1969, plaintiffs purchased the property. At or about that time, they filed an application before the Matteson Plain Commission for permission to construct an apartment building project as a planned development on the subject property which would in effect change the zoning classification to R-4. In May of 1969, this request was denied and on July 7, 1969 the defendant's Board of Trustees concurred in this denial.

In June of 1969, defendant adopted Ordinance No. 704 which operated to rezone all new and unplatted subdivisions, including the subject property, to an R-1 classification. Plaintiffs' proceedings for declaratory judgment were filed October 21, 1969. Thereafter, on March 2, 1970, defendant adopted a comprehensive ordinance which confirmed the zoning classification of the property as R-1 (Ordinance No. 724.) In the defendant's ordinances, R-1 permits single family detached dwellings on lots not less than 70 feet wide of an area not less than 8400 square feet. R-2 zoning permits single family residences on lots at least 50 feet wide and at least 7500 square feet in area. R-4 permits multiple family apartment house dwellings not to exceed seven stories or 70 feet in height, whichever is lower.

We will next note the present zoning and actual land uses in the vicinity of the subject property. Immediately to the north of the property, extending along its entire north boundary, is a strip of land which is vacant except for an automobile body shop on the western portion thereof. That entire strip is zoned for industrial uses in the I-1 category. Its north to south dimension is approximately 160 feet. It is owned by the Elgin, Joliet & Eastern Railroad and used as part of its maintenance and repair yard. The railroad stands ready to service any industry which might be developed on this land. In the southern portion of this area, adjoining the subject property, are the main tracks of the E.J. & E. Railroad running east and west. There are ten tracks in the rail yards in this area. These railroad tracks are on ground level, being neither raised upon a viaduct nor depressed. Also in the same immediate area are the so-called interchange tracks of the Illinois Central Railroad. This interchange is used for changing of cars between the two railroads and it runs up and joins the main line of the Illinois Central Railroad some 200 feet to the west.

Immediately to the north of the railroad tracks is a large tract of land zoned I-1 and I-2. Actual land uses in this area are a concrete Ready-Mix plant and a lumber and coal company serviced by the E.J. & E. Railroad and also another manufacturing plant. The I-2 use is for heavy industrial purposes. Any additional industrial uses which might be established in this area could be directly serviced by the railroad. The evidence shows that the railroad would encourage such development which would be for its benefit.

The property to the east of the subject property is within Park Forest. Proceeding in an easterly direction, the first 250 feet of land is devoted to a surface drainage ditch. This land is used as a park and is not adaptable for building purposes. Still further to the east there is a large tract of land, also in Park Forest, zoned for single family residence use. In this subdivision the R-1 zoning abuts upon the southern border of the railroad tracks. The railroad property there is used exclusively as a right-of-way. The railroad does not service industry in the vicinity of this subdivision.

Directly to the south of the subject property is a residential subdivision under R-2 zoning. It is bisected by 218th Street, which runs east and west. The western boundary of this street is Main Street, which runs north and south. There are 22 homes on each side of 218th Street in this area which is roughly the same size and shape as the subject property. All of the homes front upon 218th Street so that the rear portions of the homes in the northern half of the subdivision abut upon the southern boundary line of the subject property.

Immediately next to the south of this subdivision there is another vacant strip of land of approximately the same shape and size. It is zoned R-1 but is mostly undeveloped. The southern boundary of this area is the southern limit of Matteson. Next, to the south is a strip of land ...

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