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La Salle Nat. Bank v. Vil. of Western Springs

AUGUST 20, 1974.




APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. F. EMMETT MORRISSEY, Judge, presiding.


La Salle National Bank (hereinafter plaintiff) petitioned the board of zoning appeals of the Village of Western Springs, seeking to have certain unimproved property reclassified from R-2 Residential, which limited the use of the property to single-family dwellings, among other uses, to R-3 Residential, which would allow for the construction of two, two-family or "duplex" residences, one on each of the two lots which comprised the subject property. By a four-to-three vote, the board denied the petition, and, subsequently, the board of trustees of the Village approved the recommendation of the zoning board.

Thereafter, plaintiff filed suit in the court below, seeking a declaration that the R-2 Residential classification was arbitrary and discriminatory, and, hence, invalid and unconstitutional, as it applied to the subject property; further, plaintiff prayed that the Village be enjoined from interfering with such use of the subject property as would be permitted under the R-3 Residential classification. After having made its findings subsequent to a hearing on the matter, the court below entered an order holding the R-2 zoning of plaintiff's property to be "arbitrary and discriminatory and, hence, invalid and unconstitutional as applied to plaintiff's proposed use" and further enjoined the Village from interfering with plaintiff's proposed use of the property "in full compliance with all requirements set forth for R-3 Residential Districts as defined by the Zoning Ordinance of the Village of Western Springs." The Village appeals.

The Village of Western Springs is located in suburban Cook County southwest of Chicago. The Burlington Northern Railroad tracks bisect the Village at a southwesterly-northeasterly angle.

In 1948, the zoning ordinance adopted by the Village provided for a staggered, R-3 zoning classification on the south side of Burlington Street, which paralleled the Burlington Railroad right-of-way. This R-3 classification had a north-south depth of approximately 140 feet and extended westerly from the eastern Village boundary for five blocks. The R-3 classification acted as a buffer zone between the railroad right-of-way and the R-2 zoning classification which extended southward to the Village limits. The record indicates that the Village maintained this identical R-3 staggered zoning area to the date of the instant litigation.

The subject property consists of two adjoining vacant lots, each with 50 feet frontages and depths of 213 feet, approximately 140 feet south of Burlington Street, located on the east side of Howard Avenue, a north-south street. Since 1948, the property has been zoned R-2.

Plaintiff acquired legal title to the property for approximately $3,900 in 1954. At the time of the hearing in the court below, the beneficial interests in the property were as follows: 25% was owned by G. Grant Dixon, Jr., who had acquired his interest from his father, who died in 1958; 25% was owned by Robert Dixon, the brother of G. Grant Dixon, Jr.; and the remainder was owned by Charles N. Hodge. Plaintiff made no effort to sell the property under the R-2 zoning prior to seeking the instant rezoning.

The property immediately adjacent to the subject property to the north, continuing northward to Burlington Street, is zoned R-3 and improved with three, two-family dwellings, one on each of the three lots. The property immediately adjacent to plaintiff's on the south is zoned R-2 and is improved with single-family residences, located on lots of approximately the same dimensions as those comprising the subject property. On the west side of Howard Avenue, across the street from the plaintiff's property, there are three lots, zoned R-3 and improved with two-family dwellings, which are located immediately south of Burlington Street; thereafter, continuing south, the property is zoned R-2 and is improved with single-family dwellings. Owing to the slant of the railroad tracks, the three two-family dwellings on the west side of Howard Avenue do not directly align with the three two-family residences on plaintiff's side of the street. Consequently, the southernmost two-family dwelling is directly across the avenue from the subject property.

The property abutting plaintiff's to the east, facing Clausen Avenue, is part of a resubdivision. Three lots, which face Clausen Avenue, are zoned R-2; the northernmost is improved with a single-family residence; the remaining two are vacant; the southernmost and the south half of the middle lot of the three immediately abut plaintiff's property. Immediately north of these three lots are three others, zoned R-3, which face on Burlington Street; the two westernmost lots are improved with two-family dwellings, and the remaining lot is vacant.

Plaintiff called three witnesses on its behalf: a realtor, a real estate consultant, and a real estate appraiser. Their testimony, in pertinent part, can be summarized as follows. They testified that the highest and best use of the subject property would be to develop it in the manner proposed by plaintiff, that is, with two, two-family residences, which were contemplated to be tenant-occupied; that the proposed development would enhance the value of the surrounding property; that the construction of single-family residences on the subject property would be inconsistent with the general character of the neighborhood; that the construction of either two single-family residence buildings (under the R-2 zoning) or the proposed development would not affect the fair market value of the surrounding property; that the proposed development would be entirely consistent with the character of the environment wherein it would be located; that it would be uneconomical to develop the subject property with two single-family rental units; and that the development proposed by plaintiff would neither essentially change the character of the neighborhood, nor adversely affect the health, wealth, or safety of the adjoining properties.

Plaintiff's witnesses also acknowledged that there was a need and demand for single-family property, improved or vacant, in the Village; that the subject property was capable of single-family development; and that single-family development would not have an adverse economic effect on the surrounding properties or the general neighborhood.

The testimony of the Village's expert witnesses, a city planning consultant and a real estate broker and appraiser, can be summarized, in pertinent part, as follows. Both testified that the highest and best use of the subject property was single-family residential under the existing R-2 classification, and the reasons for their opinions were these: the property was part of an area characterized predominantly by single-family residences; it had all the characteristics of other properties in the immediate area which had been developed for single-family residences; the property was suitable for single-family use and development; the R-3 properties to the north, and those across the street from the subject property, did not make the site less suitable for single-family development, because those properties acted as a buffer zone between the railroad and the single-family development to the south; that the property drew its character, not from the R-3 properties developed with two-family residences, but from the single-family residences in the area; the property could be sold or developed and marketed for single-family use at a fair return to the seller or developer; and there was a strong demand for single-family dwellings in the Village.

The Village's experts further testified that there would be an adverse effect upon the existing single-family residences in the area should the property be developed for two-family homes, whereas the single-family homes would appreciate in value if the lots were developed for single-family use. Still further, they testified, inter alia, that two-family development of the property could be detrimental to the Village's overall zoning plan for R-2 and R-3 classifications, in that the development could establish a precedent for further extension of R-3 areas into single-family neighborhoods.

Another witness, a nearby property owner, was called to testify for the Village. He testified, in pertinent part, that he was basically against the zoning change because he believed the addition of four tenant units with absentee ownership would alter the neighborhood's basic character as single-family; and that such a ...

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