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Ganley v. City of Chicago





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. JOSEPH M. WOSIK, Judge, presiding.


Plaintiffs, James and Mary Ganley, brought this action to enjoin defendants, city of Chicago and its commissioners of the departments of buildings, and of streets and sanitation (the city), from revoking and withholding building and driveway permits for the construction of a single-family residence. The city defended on the ground that the construction site purchased by the Ganleys does not meet the minimum bulk requirement for the zoning district and, therefore, the permits were illegally issued. After a non-jury trial, the circuit court found for the Ganleys and held the city was estopped from refusing to reissue the revoked permits. The city appeals.

The city asks this court to consider whether the trial court committed error when it found (1)(a) that the subject tract is not a "zoning lot"; (b) that the minimum lot area requirements of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance (Municipal Code of Chicago 1974, ch. 194A, sec. 1 et seq.) do not apply to the tract; and (2) that the city could not revoke illegally issued permits.

On February 19, 1975, James Ganley offered to buy a lot at 6779 North Jean Avenue, Chicago, *fn1 from Bernice R. Grylewicz. Ganley, an experienced real estate developer, *fn2 made the offer contingent upon his "being able to secure a building permit for a single-family residence." The lot, number 410, measures 30 x 157.27 feet. It contains approximately 4568 square feet. A 9 x 12-foot, 1 1/2-room, recreational log-cabin style, frame building was located on the rear portion of the lot. A stone barbecue pit was located near that structure. The remainder of the lot was thickly landscaped with bushes and trees. Testimony at trial indicated that Mr. Grylewicz, now deceased, often entertained his friends in the cabin. The Grylewiczes lived in the house built on the adjacent land consisting of lot 411 and part of lot 412. The entire parcel, lots 410, 411 and 412, was surrounded by a chain link fence. On February 21, 1975, Mrs. Grylewicz accepted Ganley's offer.

James Ganley then assembled plans *fn3 and subcontractors' statements necessary to apply for a building permit. His wife, Mary, filed the application on April 17, 1975. About two weeks later, Mary visited the department of buildings' offices to check the progress of the application. She spoke with an acquaintance employed by the department who told her there was a problem with the application. She then spoke with the department's zoning administrator who told her the lot looked as though it were an improved lot. *fn4

About one or two weeks after her first visit, Mary attended a conference at the department's offices to discuss the permit with a deputy commissioner in the department. The Ganleys were represented by their attorney, Gabriel Kostecki. As the meeting came to an end, Kostecki told the deputy commissioner that the Ganleys' purchase contract contained the contingency clause.

The department processed the application. The plans, survey and statements were reviewed by division examiners. Sometime around July 11, 1975, Mary's acquaintance at the department told her that the permit was going to be approved. On July 14, Kostecki, on behalf of the Ganleys, closed the sale and paid Mrs. Grylewicz $19,000. The record indicates that leveling work on the property began that day.

On Friday, July 18, the department issued the permit. Subcontractors began to excavate the site. Two business days later, on Tuesday, July 22, the permit was revoked for cause. The Ganleys had failed to secure the requisite driveway permit. Their attorney filed an application for that permit the next day. The department of streets and sanitation issued the driveway permit on August 18. On August 19, the acting commissioner of that department revoked the permit. The revocation apparently resulted from a letter, dated August 11, 1975, by the local alderman who objected to the issuance of the permit because, inter alia, lot 410 was in his opinion part of a zoning lot.

The Ganleys filed this action on August 26. The trial court found that lot 410 was not a zoning lot. The court then ruled that the city was estopped from refusing to reissue the permits.


The city contends that lot 410 is, as a matter of law, part of a "zoning lot." It states that the subdivision of that zoning lot and the proposed construction upon it violates the Chicago Zoning Ordinance.

Lots 410, 411 and 412 are located in a district with an R-1 zoning classification, which provides for construction of single-family residences only. (Municipal Code of Chicago 1974, ch. 194A, sec. 7.5-1.) Section 7.5-1 of the ordinance requires that each dwelling unit within the district be provided with a lot area of at least 6,250 square feet. Section 7.5(2) provides an exception to this bulk requirement in that a one-family dwelling may be established on a "lot of record" of any size.

The trial court found lot 410 to be within the exception because it was merely a "lot of record."

"A `lot of record' is an area of land designated as a lot on a plat of subdivision recorded or registered, pursuant to statute, with the Recorder of Deeds of Cook County and the Ex-officio Examiner of the Subdivisions of the City of ...

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