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Amalgamated T. & Sav. v. County of Cook





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


• 1 The plaintiff seeks to have a property zoned residential rezoned to permit the erection of a shopping center, office park complex, financial institution with remote drive-in facility, a cluster of restaurants, four six-story multiple-family or senior citizen towers, two five-story condominium structures, and 25 single-family homes. The trial court held that while the existing residential zoning applicable to the property was unreasonable, the proposed plan was not a reasonable use. We affirm the latter finding.

The plaintiffs, who are the owners and proposed developers of the subject property, applied to the Cook County zoning board of appeals for a rezoning of the subject property to R-8 General Residence District classification and for a special use for a planned unit development. The zoning board of appeals recommended denial of the application and the board of commissioners concurred. The plaintiffs filed a suit against Cook County seeking a declaration that the zoning ordinance was unconstitutional as applied to the subject property and an injunction barring Cook County from preventing the development of the property as planned. The villages of Glenview and Northbrook which are contiguous to the property on the south and west, respectively, and La Salceda Homeowners Association, an organization of property owners owning land to the west of the property, were permitted to intervene. After a bench trial, the trial court found the existing classification arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable, but held that the uses planned by the plaintiff for the subject property represented "a tremendous conglomerate of maximums," were not reasonable and upheld the denial of the special use permit.


The evidence in this case discloses that the subject property is an approximately 36.2-acre plot of level, slightly sloping vacant land with frontage of approximately one-quarter of a mile along Willow Road to the north and approximately one-eighth of a mile along Shermer Road on the east in Northfield Township, in an unincorporated area of Cook County. The property is roughly square except for a portion of the southeast corner, which is traversed by the Chicago & Northwestern Railroad.

The subject property is currently zoned R-4 (single-family residences) under the Cook County Zoning Ordinance of 1976, which requires 20,000-square-foot lots. The village of Northbrook, village of Glenview, Northfield Township, and Cook County all have adopted official comprehensive plans showing the subject property as a single-family use. Northbrook shows 12,000-square-foot minimum lots, in accordance with the Northbrook R-4 classification, while Glenview shows 10,000-square-foot lots, in accordance with its R-4 classification. The Northfield Township plan, updated in 1974, identifies the property as a single-family use and park site.

Immediately west of the subject property are single-family homes in the La Salceda development in Northbrook. These homes, developed under the Northbrook R-4 single-family 12,000-square-foot minimum lot classification, range in value from $160,000 to $225,000. The homes do not front on Willow Road, but on interior streets. Several, however, side or back on Willow. Immediately south of the western half of the property, and also to the southwest of it is the village of Glenviews's R-4 single-family Willow Development which requires 10,000-square-foot minimum lots. The values of those homes are in the same range as those in La Salceda.

Further west, on the south side of Willow in Northbrook, is the Cobblestone development. Although originally approved for 60% single-family, 40% townhouses, the market did not sustain the multifamily units, and only three triples and seven duplexes were built, all in the early years. All recent construction in Cobblestone has been single-family, apparently representing the trend of development in the area. West of Cobblestone, along the south side of Willow, are several other new single-family developments. Greenwood Avenue, which crosses Willow about 1300 feet west of the subject property at signalized intersections, has single-family homes on the south corner and multifamily to the north. Besides the few multifamily units in Cobblestone, the only exception to the single-family development on the south side of Willow, west of Shermer, is the Plaza Del Prado Shopping Center, imposed by judicial decree (Hutson v. County of Cook (1974), 17 Ill. App.3d 195, 308 N.E.2d 65, appeal denied (1974), 56 Ill.2d 582), located at the corner of Willow and Pfingsten about three-quarters of a mile west of the subject property. The decree which approved the Plaza Del Prado also required that a parcel south of the shopping center be developed with 25 single-family homes separated by a 20- to 25-foot landscape buffer plus about a 6-foot stockade fence.

On the north side of Willow, northwest of the subject property, is the Salceda Del Norte development which is entirely residential, consisting of townhouses and multifamily buildings. The maximum density permitted is six units per acre. West of this are 4-plexes, 6-plexes and single-family units. Further west on Willow is Stone Hedge, a large development currently under construction which is completely single-family. It is described as "wrapping around" St. Peters Church and a nursery located at the northeast corner of Pfingsten and Willow. Further west on Willow, past Landwehr Road, a relatively large scale single-family development is being constructed.

Directly north of the subject site, on the north side of Willow, is a 17.9-acre parcel zoned by judicial decree (Northbrook Trust & Savings Bank v. County of Cook (1977), 47 Ill. App.3d 879, 365 N.E.2d 433, cert. denied sub nom. Village of Northbrook v. Northbrook Trust and Savings Bank (1978), 434 U.S. 1069, 55 L.Ed.2d 771, 98 S.Ct. 1249), for a combination K-Mart Shopping Center and multifamily developments. Despite that decision, none of these have yet been built and the property is currently used as a nursery. The multifamily buildings planned for that development will be three stories high and have a maximum density of 10 units per acre. The northwest corner of Willow and Shermer is used for a filling station. North of the K-Mart property is part of Salceda Del Norte.

About a mile north, near the center of Northbrook, is an area zoned R-7 which permits a density of 17 dwelling units per acre. On the east side of Shermer, slightly north of the K-Mart property, is a United Parcel Service distribution center. On the northeast corner of Shermer and Willow is a filling station and car wash. Directly east of the subject property is a triangle bounded by Shermer on the west, Willow on the north and the railroad. This triangle is developed with a small convenience shopping center. A witness for the defense testified that the area did not determine the character of use of the subject property although it might affect the design of any construction on the property.

The Chicago & Northwestern Railroad traverses a portion of the southeast corner of the subject property and continues northeast across Shermer and then across Willow. To the south and east of the railroad is an area of industrial uses, the Glenview Naval Air Station, two cemeteries, and a few scattered residences. The railroad embankment is 15 to 20 feet high. Witnesses for both parties agreed that it was a natural and physical barrier. However, it was noted traffic to the industrial sites passes the subject property.

Shermer Road in this area is a four-lane divided highway. A defense witness testified that it has become a demarcation line because of zoning practices (residential on the west, manufacturing on the east). A witness for the plaintiff testified that Shermer is not a natural boundary.

Willow Road is a divided four-lane arterial roadway located on a 100-foot right-of-way; it widens to essentially six lanes at the intersection with Shermer. The average traffic crossing over the highway is approximately 35,000 vehicles a day. The defendants' witness testified that it forms a natural barrier and that buildings on the north of Willow would have only a little effect on the subject property; they would affect, at most, the design but not the use of the property. One of the plaintiffs' witnesses agreed that Willow Road had been used as a zoning line of demarcation, but felt that the south side of Willow should have been developed more intensely. He also testified that the property took a commercial character from the Willow-Shermer intersection. The trial court found that Willow, Shermer and the railroad embankment are natural, recognizable and proper zoning barriers.

There have been two serious train derailments at the Shermer viaduct during the last 10 years. The cars fell off the viaduct into Shermer Road. The railroad track is little more than a boxcar length from one of the proposed condominiums. One of the defense witnesses testified this was one factor favoring single-family as opposed to multifamily development. Furthermore, although the subject property is not technically within a danger zone with respect to the Naval Air Station, the Station has taken an official position against development of the property for multifamily uses.


The plaintiffs wish to build a $25 million development on the subject property, including a shopping center, an office park complex, a financial institution with remote drive-in facility, a cluster of restaurants, four six-story multiple-family or senior citizen towers, two five-story condominium structures, containing a total number of 306 apartment and condominium units, and 25 single-family homes. Of the 36.2 acres on the site, 16.2 would be devoted to commercial and office uses. The business and commercial buildings would occupy the northern half of the property. The condominiums would occupy the eastern portion of the property south of the commercial near the railroad. The multiple-family buildings would occupy the southeastern quarter of the property. One of those buildings would also be very near the railroad tracks. The single-family homes would be located along three-quarters of the western border of the property (that quarter nearest Willow being for offices).

There would be two parking stalls for each dwelling unit. The parking structure for the multifamily units would rise 2 1/2 stories above ground level. One hundred and twenty of the condominium parking stalls would be indoors, with the remainder beside the ...

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