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Johnson v. City of Elgin

AUGUST 5, 1975.

PAUL L. JOHNSON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE CITY OF ELGIN, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE DOWNING DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Paul L. Johnson (plaintiff) owns certain real property in the City of Elgin (defendant), Cook County, Illinois. The property is zoned, under the defendant zoning ordinance, B4 General Service District. *fn1 The defendant denied plaintiff's petition for a special use permit to develop a mobile home park on the property in question. *fn2 Some 3 years later plaintiff filed a complaint for declaratory judgment alleging that this refusal to grant the special use zoning was arbitrary and capricious, and that he was denied due process and equal protection of the law under both the Illinois and Federal constitutions, all of which defendant denied in its answer.

After a bench trial the circuit court of Cook County ruled that plaintiff had failed to show by clear and convincing evidence that the defendant's action was unreasonable, arbitrary or capricious or violative of any of plaintiff's constitutional rights and dismissed plaintiff's complaint. Plaintiff appeals that decision.

The primary question presented for review is whether, based on the facts in this record, the denial of the special use permit to develop a mobile home park in the B4 general service district was arbitrary and capricious, bearing no real and substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare. More particularly, plaintiff questions whether the defendant can deny his application for a special use for new mobile homes and at the same time allow additional mobile homes at another location across U.S. Route 20 and within the same zoning district.

In March, 1968, plaintiff petitioned the Elgin city council for a special use permit to develop his property as a mobile home park. The property described in the petition for a special use consisted of 14 lots; 6 of the 14 lots have been owned by plaintiff since 1956; as to the other 8 lots, plaintiff entered into a contract in 1966 to purchase the 8 lots for $25,000, with knowledge of the B4 general service district zoning as to that property. *fn3

The 14 lots in dispute are located on the southerly side of Villa Street, also known as U.S. Route 20, a major thoroughfare running through the City of Elgin. The defendant, using a strip-zoning pattern, has generally classified the property along Route 20 into four business and two manufacturing districts. The area along Route 20, within a number of blocks of the subject property, except for property used as a cemetery, is zoned and used for business purposes. Directly across Route 20 from the subject property, the zoning is B4 and the property adjoining and to the north of the business zoned strip is zoned M1, Limited Manufacturing District. A trailer court is located within the B4 zone and the manufacturing district on the north side of Route 20.

Plaintiff's special use petition for a mobile home park development on the south side of Route 20 was considered by the defendant's zoning board of appeals which, after a public hearing, recommended to the city council that the permit be granted. The city plan commission, after completing its study, recommended that the permit be denied. Over 1 year later the city council denied plaintiff's application. The council cited the following reasons given by the plan commission for the denial of the special use permit:

"1. This is prime business and commercial property. A trailer park is not the best possible use for the land.

2. There would be two intersections within 75 feet of each other with the intersection of Willard and Villa and the intersection of the private road and Villa Street.

3. There are enough mobile home parks in this area at the present time.

4. There would not be a substantial revenue return to offset the potential public expenditure."

At trial, plaintiff introduced three witnesses in support of his case. Margaret Glink, city clerk for the City of Elgin, testified regarding applications made for trailer-mobile park special use permits in the City of Elgin. The records of the defendant, identified by witness Glink, pertained to its action in 1968 and 1969 relative to plaintiff's application for a special use, and the action in 1969 granting additions to the trailer park across Route 20 from the subject property.

Paul Johnson, plaintiff, testified to his ownership of the 14 lots, the uses *fn4 of the surrounding area, and his plan to develop the land as a mobile home park. He stated six of the lots were purchased almost 20 years ago for about $10,000. The other eight lots were contracted to be purchased in 1966 for $25,000, although he had not acquired title to the eight lots; and that he knew the property being purchased was zoned B4 general service district.

Plaintiff's final witness Angel Del Tondo was a photographer who identified certain photographs ...


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