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Goffinet v. County of Christian





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the Fourth District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Christian County; the Hon. Robert J. Sanders, Judge, presiding.


Harry Griswold, vendor, and Illinois NapGas Co., intended purchaser of a parcel of land, petitioned the Zoning Board of Appeals of Christian County (hereinafter zoning board) requesting that the parcel be rezoned from AG-1 (agricultural) to 1-2 (heavy industrial). The zoning board recommended that the Christian County Board (hereinafter county board) deny petitioners' request. The county board, however, by a 20-1 vote, adopted an amendment to its zoning ordinance which rezoned the subject parcel to 1-2. Plaintiffs-appellants, owners of the land adjacent to the rezoned tract, filed suit in the circuit court of Christian County. In their amended complaint they sought a declaratory judgment, holding the amendment to the zoning ordinance void, and an injunction enjoining the county board from enforcing the amendment and issuing any building permits to petitioners. The court entered a judgment order declaring the amendment valid and dismissing plaintiffs' suit with prejudice. The appellate court affirmed (Goffinet v. County of Christian, 30 Ill. App.3d 1089), and we granted plaintiffs-appellants leave to appeal. Appellants do not contend that they suffer any special damages but maintain that the February 13, 1973, rezoning ordinance is void for the reason that it contains unauthorized restrictions and hence constitutes conditional rezoning and also because the ordinance constitutes "spot zoning." These are the issues with which we are confronted.

Illinois NapGas Co. (hereinafter NapGas), a subsidiary wholly owned by Trunkline Gas Co. (hereinafter Trunkline), which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Co. (hereinafter Panhandle), was formed to obtain a tract of land on which to construct and operate a synthetic gas production plant. Panhandle acquired an option to purchase a 236-acre parcel of farmland located in Christian County from owner Griswold.

The proposed facility would convert liquid hydrocarbon feedstock into methane gas. The feedstock would be acquired from a pipeline that originates in the Gulf Coast and intersects a distribution line owned by Panhandle one mile north of the proposed plant's site. A pump station, located on the supply line adjacent to the site, would remove the feedstock and pump it into storage tanks. After processing, the finished product would be pumped into the distribution line.

The plant's physical structure would include one 200-foot radio tower, five 150-foot stacks and 12 other stacks ranging from 60 to 75 feet high. Twelve to fourteen inch pipes would tap one million gallons of water daily from the Sangamon River and deliver it to the plant, and a return pipe would carry back to the river all the impurities that the water contained and one fourth of the water taken.

Panhandle retained a consulting firm to help design the plant so that it would operate within the ecological, environmental and safety standards established by local, State and Federal laws. Acceptable amounts of sulfur and carbon monoxide would be released in the atmosphere, and a certain amount of noise would be emitted. Waste materials would be treated and reduced to sludge. The sludge would then be dried out and disposed of either by dumping in a landfill or plowing into the ground on the plant site.

Pursuant to a comprehensive plan prepared for Christian County, the county board adopted a zoning ordinance in 1964 (amended in 1968) zoning the tract of land for agricultural use. Both the comprehensive plan of 1964 and its 1970 update stated that the highest and best use of the land was agricultural. The plan also cautioned that more emphasis must be placed on industry in order for the county to offer vocational opportunities to the youth of the community and to attain economic growth.

On February 13, 1973, the county board, pursuant to the request of Griswold and NapGas for rezoning and a variance of use of the subject tract, rejected the zoning board's recommendation and enacted an amendment which conditionally rezoned the parcel of land to 1-2.

The disputed ordinance contains four articles. We find that articles I and II are pertinent to this appeal. Article I, entitled "Finding of Facts," provides, in relevant part:

"Section 6. That the best use of the land is for the uses of 1-2 heavy industrial to permit the storage of naptha, petroleum products, and similar hydrocarbon products, and the processing of the same into pipe line quality gas suitable for distributor, utility, and industrial purposes.

Section 7. That permitting the foregoing 1-2 heavy industrial use of the premises will not adversely affect the use of any of the neighboring land and will have no detriment on the value of the neighboring and adjoining tracts of land.

Section 8. That there now exists in Christian County, Illinois, and the surrounding area a shortage of natural gas, substitute natural gas, and synthetic natural gas, resulting in a gas crisis affecting residents of Christian County, Illinois.

Section 9. That many of the necessary service facilities, industrial facilities, and business facilities, such as St. Vincent's Memorial Hospital of Taylorville, Illinois, Taylorville Co-op Heating Association, farm elevators and individual farm dryers using natural gas for drying purposes, and many of the larger industrial facilities in the county, are presently on interruptable natural gas service by Central Illinois Public Service Company.

Section 10. That the present and projected shortage of natural gas supplies available for use in Christian County is and will require many persons in Christian County, Illinois, to find alternative sources of energy in lieu of natural gas, and the alternative sources ...

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