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Edgemont Bk. & T. Co. v. City of Belleville





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of St. Clair County; the Hon. CARL H. BECKER, Judge, presiding.


At issue here is the propriety of a zoning classification for certain property located in the city of Belleville, a defendant herein. The plaintiff, Edgemont Bank and Trust Company, now known as Mid America Bank and Trust Company of Edgemont (hereinafter referred to as the Bank), filed an action in the trial court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The trial court declared the zoning classification unconstitutional and void as applied to plaintiff's property and enjoined the defendant city from preventing plaintiff's development and use of the property as a walk-up banking facility. Defendants, 21 homeowner intervenors and the city of Belleville, appeal. Defendants contend initially that they are entitled to reversal as a matter of law because the trial court placed on them, rather than on the plaintiff, the burden of proving the validity of the zoning ordinance. Alternatively they contend that the plaintiff failed to meet its burden of proof. Other issues defendants raise relate to the trial testimony of certain witnesses.

Plaintiff purchased its property on December 15, 1977, from Howard and Lela Moore for $125,000. At the time of purchase the property was zoned C1, Light Commercial, which permits specified kinds of business but does not include any kind of banking activity. The zoning classification C2, Heavy Commercial, permits "banks." Two months prior to the purchase, at a public hearing held on October 17, 1977, the city council of Belleville denied the Moores' motion to rezone the premises whereby they would have been reclassified from C1 to C2, that is, from Light to Heavy Commercial. At that meeting of the city council petitions were presented bearing 309 signatures of residents of the area objecting to the reclassification. Also presented was a "Written Protest of Adjoining Owners" bearing seven signatures. On December 21, 1977, the Bank filed the instant suit. On February 14, 1979, a three-day bench trial commenced.

The zoning ordinance, whose amendment the Moores sought, was passed in 1965 and provides as follows with respect to C1 and C2 Commercial Districts:


The following buildings and uses are permitted in a Light Commercial District:

1. All uses permitted and as regulated in a Multi-Family District.

2. Offices as follows: That of doctor, dentist, insurance sales, real estate sales, engineering, law, tax consultants, and accountant.

3. Funeral Home or Mortuary.


The following buildings and uses are permitted in a Heavy Commercial District:

8. Business offices of all types including office buildings, banks, business colleges and private trade schools."

As evidence of the unreasonableness and arbitrariness of the scheme of classification, plaintiff introduced at trial the number and kinds of businesses that have developed along the four-lane highway that bounds the property in question, together with photographs of many of these commercial establishments and testimony as to their location along this highway.

Unfortunately, though the record does contain maps of the entire city of Belleville, it does not contain any detailed map of the area with which we are primarily concerned, the area around plaintiff's property. The record often displays minor inconsistencies and is at times confusing. Nevertheless, we have ascertained from all the evidence that plaintiff's property is located at the northeast corner of a four-block area which, by itself, is densely single-family residential in character. However, that four-block area, including plaintiff's property, is bounded on the north by West Main Street, the principal artery linking the cities of Belleville and East St. Louis, a heavily traveled east-west thoroughfare. In a westerly progression away from the center of the city of Belleville during approximately the past 20 years, commercial development has occurred in various degrees of intensity along the entire length of this thoroughfare. It has, however, largely skipped this four-block section. Throughout trial defendants sought to limit the area for consideration more nearly to this four-block section and objected to plaintiff's introduction of evidence relating to essentially all of West Main Street west of 46th Street, a span of about 60 blocks.

Bounding the four-block area on the east is 78th Street, which intersects with West Main Street to form the corner where the Bank wishes to install its walk-in facility. Directly across 78th Street to the east from plaintiff's property is a gas station fronting on West Main Street. Adjacent to the gas station on the east is a tavern. Both establishments have been operated in those locations for approximately 20 years or more and, as C2 uses, constitute nonconforming uses under the zoning code adopted in 1965. Likewise, the four-block area itself, located toward the western end of the artery and comprised of the 7800, 7900, 8000 and 8100 blocks, has remained essentially unchanged for over 20 years.

On the south side of West Main Street the residential area extends undisturbed by commerce for approximately six more blocks. However, that is not the case on the north side of West Main Street. In the 8100 block on the north side of the street is a rather small grocery store, operated at that same location for well over 20 years. North of West Main Street in the 8200 block, across 82d Street from the grocery store and just west of the four-block area, are a dry cleaning establishment and a beauty shop. A religious education office is adjacent to them on the west. About two blocks further west on the north side of the street is a funeral home. Proceeding west, one finds in the next two to three blocks on that same side of the street an insurance and a real estate office and a large, modern complex known as the Kilmar building, which houses, in two stories, doctors' offices and a drugstore and provides patients and patrons ample parking space. At approximately this point on the south side of West Main Street commercial establishments reappear. The first such establishment, a bridal shop, is approximately 10 blocks west of the gas station and tavern that lie just to the east of plaintiff's property and the four-block area.

In the four-block area itself on the south side of West Main Street, plaintiff's property is the only nonresidential property other than a church, which is located at the northwest corner of the four-block section, in the 8100 block across the street from the grocery store. After the Moores bought the subject property, they opened a nursery school in 1956 on the first floor and lived upstairs. Prior to plaintiff's purchase of the property, the three buildings comprising it at 7800, 7810 and 7812 West Main Street were used for offices and apartments. At trial it was shown that the building at 7800 housed the Heidemann Insurance Agency and contained one apartment. That at 7810 contained two to three apartments while that at 7812 served as the location for offices used by the Children and Family Advocacy Council and related mental health agencies. There are parking lots in front of at least two of these buildings. On the north side of West Main Street, opposite the four-block area, in addition to the grocery store, the only ...

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