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Lagrange State Bk. v. County of Cook





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


Plaintiff, owner of record of the subject property, applied to the Board of Commissioners of Cook County for a special use permit to allow construction on the property of an extended care nursing home facility. The property presently is classified under the Cook County Zoning Ordinance, as amended, as part of an R-3 Single Family Residence District. The Zoning Board of Appeals of Cook County, after a hearing, recommended that the special use be granted. The Board of Commissioners of Cook County without holding a hearing, none being required under its procedures, rejected the recommendation and refused to issue a special permit. Plaintiff thereupon filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against defendant, the County of Cook. Various nearby property owners were given leave to intervene as parties defendant. The trial court entered judgment in favor of defendants, and plaintiff appeals.

We reverse the judgment of the trial court.

The subject property is located in unincorporated Cook County, in Lyons Township, and consists of approximately 2.25 acres having 233 feet of frontage along the East side of Gilbert Avenue and a frontage of approximately 417 feet long the north side of 52nd Place. The property was purchased for $90,000 in 1972. It is vacant except for a 1 1/2-story brick and frame single-family residence with a garage and shed that rent for $280 a month. The property is currently zoned R-3 Single Family Residence District. Under present zoning, an extended care nursing home facility is permitted as a special use.

The area surrounding the property consists of single-family homes except for 35 acres to the north which is occupied by the Community Memorial General Hospital campus. The hospital building itself is physically in the Village of LaGrange. The hospital building and campus is in an "A" zoning classification permitted under the zoning laws as a planned unit development. Just north of the hospital is a recently constructed four-story professional office building. Expensive single-family homes are adjacent to this building.

The proposed use for the property is to construct and operate a four-story extended care nursing center containing approximately 165 patient beds. Each floor will be 13,000 square feet and the building will cover 12 percent of the site. Parking will be provided for approximately 83 cars and will cover 26 percent of the site. The site will be entirely landscaped and screened to the east and south. The building will be completely fire resistant and will meet all Federal Housing Authority standards as well as the standards of the State Department of Health.

Across from the property and to the south are older homes. Each home is currently valued at approximately $40,000. Two of these homes face on the rear portion of the site. Across Gilbert Avenue is the Springdale subdivision in the Village of Western Springs. Homes there are valued in the $75,000-$100,000 class. There is a stockade fence along all of the western side of Gilbert Avenue.

The plaintiff's evidence consisted of the following:

G. Grant Dixon, Jr., who with his brother are beneficiaries of the land trust which holds title to the subject property, testified that the trust has an agreement with Americana Health Services Corp. (Americana), for Americana to operate an extended care nursing home facility on the property for a period of 30 years. The agreement is subject to the plaintiff obtaining a special use zoning permit to allow the building of the facility on the subject site. The revenues from the lease would be $250,000 to $300,000 a year. Americana has no written contract with Community Memorial General Hospital relating to the servicing of patients discharged from the hospital. On cross-examination, Dixon stated that the subject property has not been listed on the open market for sale, but he has received inquiries about it.

William K. Poroske, vice-president of American Health Care Corp., which is associated with Americana, testified for the plaintiff. He stated that Americana manages 2,000 nursing center beds and eight hospitals, and that the community is best served when an extended care facility is on a medical campus. There are 16 Americana's in Illinois with four directly across from or adjacent to hospitals. Americana has a written agreement with these hospitals to transfer patients.

Poroske stated that the LaGrange area has a definite need for the proposed facility and that the subject property is a very suitable site. Professional studies and analysis indicate that even with the availability of the proposed facility, additional patient beds are needed to serve the community adequately. About 80 employees would staff the facility. Construction would cost approximately 3 million dollars. The floor area ratio is 0.5. The location would help reduce health care costs to the community. The patients would have their own private doctor on call at all times.

On cross-examination, Poroske testified that the building would be 43 feet, 7 inches high, buffered by a six-foot screen and trees. The building would be visible on a comparable level to the hospital. Americana desires a site within one-quarter mile from the hospital, and other sites in the area are not suitable. If a one-story building was constructed there would not be adequate sideyards, front yard or parking. The agreement with Americana leasing the facility is contingent on the special use permit issuing so as to have the proper zoning for the erection and use of the facility.

Donald W. Wikan, president of Cemcon, Ltd., an engineering firm, stated that he was the village engineer and Building Commissioner for LaGrange, Illinois, the community to the north. The proposed facility would comply with the Metropolitan Sanitary District drainage ordinance even though it is not required to comply since the site is under five acres. The existing utilities are adequate. There would be no adverse effects on the adjoining property owners from a utility standpoint. In fact, there would be a benefit since storm water runoff would be reduced.

Thomas J. Buckley, a city planning and zoning consultant, testified that the professional office building, which takes up 23 acres, is an integral part of the hospital campus. The "highest and best use" means the physical site itself, suitability for the contemplated use, size access, compatibility of the property with the surrounding area and its impact on overall growth, the general welfare of the citizens and the greatest economic return to the owner. While the character of the area is single-family residential, that in consequence of the existing large medical complex, the highest and best use for the subject property is the proposed facility. He stated that he did not believe the proposed use would be detrimental to the surrounding property or detract from the land values. The proposed use would not impede the normal and orderly development of the surrounding property since the ...

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