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State Toll Hwy. Auth. v. Humphrey Estate





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Lee County; the Hon. MARTIN D. HILL, Judge, presiding.


This appeal arises from an eminent domain proceeding in which the Illinois State Highway Authority (Tollway) sought to acquire 15.66 acres of the defendant Charles A. Hummel's land located about one-half mile south of the city limits of Dixon in South Dixon Township, Lee County, Illinois. The entire tract owned by the defendant consisted of about 56 acres that had no structures of any kind located thereon. It was bounded on the east by Illinois Route 26, on the north by a gravel road known as Bloody Gulch Road, on the west by Dutch Road and on the south by a parcel of farm land. Prior to this proceeding the defendant's land had been bisected diagonally by the Illinois Central Railroad from northwest to southeast. The taking by the Tollway crossed the defendant's land in a generally east and west direction. By reason of the Tollway taking and the presence of the Illinois Central Railroad, the defendant's property was divided into four quadrants of unequal size and irregular shape as shown by the following sketch:

Prior to the taking, the defendant's parcel had 2700 feet of frontage on Route 26 and 900 feet of frontage on Bloody Gulch Road. In this proceeding, defendant's access rights were condemned along the entire taking; accordingly, defendant's access to and from Route 26 is limited to a frontage of approximately 670 feet at the southeast corner of the southeast quadrant of his land (see sketch). Additionally, access to Bloody Gulch Road was taken beginning at its intersection with Route 26 and extending west for a distance of approximately 120 feet. On the west side of defendant's property, Dutch Road was converted to a dead-end road on each side of the tollway.

Again referring to the sketch, the tollway plans show a "trumpet interchange" directly across Route 26 from the northeast quadrant of the remainder of the defendant's land. All tollway traffic enters and exits from this point. Therefore, to gain access to the largest quadrant (northeast) of the defendant's remaining land from the trumpet interchange, it is necessary to travel north on Route 26 to Bloody Gulch Road and then turn west and proceed for a distance of at least 120 feet.

The construction of the tollway across the defendant's land changed its topography as the highway is elevated approximately 10 feet. Also, the tollway maintenance buildings are located on the east side of Route 26 in the interchange area opposite defendant's land. Public sewer and water lines from Dixon were brought by the Tollway to those buildings; these lines pass in the proximity of defendant's property in order to reach the maintenance building area. At the time the condemnation suit was filed, defendant's property was used for agricultural purposes and it was zoned for this use by the Lee County Zoning Ordinance.

The eminent domain proceedings were filed on August 18, 1971, and sought defendant's land as part of the extension of the East-West Tollway from a point approximately 4 miles west of Aurora to a point 1 mile east of Rock Falls. On October 6, 1971, a "quick take" order was entered; it found the value of the property taken to be $20,594.75 and it further found the damage to the remainder to be $24,144.75. These funds were deposited by the Tollway and withdrawn by the defendant. Defendant then cross-petitioned for a jury determination of damages to the remainder of his property. This extension of the East-West Tollway was opened for traffic in 1974. The trial of this case began on February 10, 1975; by reason thereof, the jury viewed the property sought in this proceeding after completion of the proposed improvement. The jury verdict found just compensation for the property taken to be $16,875; damages to the remainder were fixed at $4,050. The court then entered judgment on the jury's verdict and ordered defendant to repay the excess funds he had withdrawn, namely, $23,814.50; defendant appeals from this judgment.

The defendant presents six propositions for review by his appeal:

(1) That the volume of traffic at the interchange should not be considered in determining either damage or benefit to the remainder;

(2) Even if it were proper to consider the volume of traffic, the traffic survey data and opinion testimony based thereon were speculative and improperly admitted in evidence.

(3) Petitioner's valuation witnesses improperly considered estimates from the traffic survey made for the Tollway;

(4) A witness for the petitioner was improperly permitted to state an opinion as to the suitability of the remainder for certain uses although he had no knowledge of the local real estate market.

(5) The petitioner should have been compelled to answer defendant's request for admission of fact regarding the accuracy of the traffic survey; and

(6) The court permitted improper cross-examination of one of the defendant's witnesses.

The determination of the value of the remainder after construction of the improvement was the most critical finding made by the jury in this case. Two witnesses for the petitioner were of the opinion that there would be damage to the remainder due to triangulation (crop damage occasioned by equipment turns during cultivation), division, loss of access and grade elevation; however, they were also of the opinion that by reason of increased traffic and the availability of public sewer and water, there would be special benefits to the remainder after construction of the improvement. After consideration of the foregoing factors, both of petitioner's valuation witnesses concluded that the benefits more than offset the damages to the remainder. On the other hand, the two valuation witnesses who testified for the defendant found damage to the remainder of $28,600 and $30,000 respectively and neither of them found any special benefits by reason of the construction of the improvement. A ...

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