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Wundsam v. Gilna





APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. FRANK ORLANDO, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied July 21, 1981.

Defendant, Donald Gilna, appeals from a judgment entered against him by the trial court, sitting without a jury, in a zoning ordinance violation action in which he was fined $200. The underlying basis of the quasicriminal complaint filed by plaintiff, George D. Wundsam, building and zoning administrator for and on behalf of the city of Park Ridge (for clarity in identification, hereinafter referred to as city), was that defendant had illegally stored his motorized home in the front yard driveway leading from the street to the garage attached to his single-family home contrary to the city zoning ordinance. Defendant raised issues claiming the unconstitutionality of the ordinance and that his prior lawful use of the property for storage of the motorized home gave him the right to continue that practice as a lawful nonconforming use of the property. For the reasons which will presently appear, we affirm.

The city of Park Ridge ordinance adopted on September 2, 1975, in those parts relevant to this case, are as follows:


A. Definitions. Vehicles or other similar facilities used primarily for recreational purposes. Such vehicles include travel trailers, pickup coaches, camper trailers, motorized homes, boats and rafts. For the purpose of administering Section 9.04 Recreational Vehicles the following definitions shall be applicable:

Motorized Home: A Motorized Home is a portable dwelling designed and constructed as an integral part of a self-propelled vehicle.

B. Parking Requirements. The parking and storage of travel trailers, pickup coaches, camper trailers, motorized homes, boats and rafts in the R — 1A through R — 5 Districts shall be subject to the following regulations, except that recreational vehicles that cannot meet the parking requirements of this ordinance may be parked in the front or corner side yard for a period not to exceed two (2) years from the date of the adoption of this ordinance.

1. Recreational vehicles shall not be stored within the front and corner side yard, except that recreational vehicles may be temporarily parked for trip preparation and unloading purposes."

Defendant's property is located on the east side of South Knight Avenue in the city of Park Ridge within an R — 1 One Family Residence district. The property is improved with a two-story brick residence with attached garage, built on a lot 50 feet wide by 132 feet in depth. That depth includes an alley vacated by the city. The area within which defendant's home is located is improved exclusively with single-family residences, including the property uses to the north and south of his home. The north side yard of his property is approximately five feet four inches in width, and the south side yard is approximately seven feet in width. The residence is constructed approximately 31 feet east of the front lot line, the intervening space being considered defendant's front yard. The attached garage and driveway are located at the north side of the home.

Among the witnesses who testified in support of the ordinance violation action were Patricia Ross, a neighbor who lives in a house directly north of defendant's property; George Wundsam, building and zoning administrator; Thomas J. Buckley, a city planner; James Nelson, a real estate appraiser and broker; William Hominick, a Park Ridge police officer; Donald Pfister, director of fire protection employed by the Park Ridge fire department; and Maxine Cook, a neighbor of defendant who lives directly across the street. The cumulative evidence presented by these witnesses generally was that when defendant's recreational vehicle was parked in his driveway, it obstructed the view of the front yards on which adjacent homes were situated; the vehicle was considered under an administrative interpretation to be a self-propelled portable dwelling unit by reason of its size and weight, although precise specifications are not contained within the ordinance itself; and the front yards of the residences and location of defendant's home have a minimum depth of 30 to 35 feet and are open, unobstructed areas improved with trees and landscaping.

The city's witnesses also testified that the absence of an ordinance such as section 9.04 would encourage the parking of large recreational vehicles in front yard areas, which would have an adverse impact upon the character, appearance and function of the neighborhood; the absence of such an ordinance would diminish the market value of single-family residences in the area due to greater lot density use and view obstruction both from the street and adjoining homes; the storage of recreational vehicles of this size presents some problems for crime control in that neighbors would have greater difficulty observing adjacent residences and the presence of such vehicles may themselves draw criminal activity; and fire protection problems would develop in that accessibility to homes would be decreased, and combustible materials stored inside recreational vehicles would present additional hazards. There was further testimony that defendant's vehicle was situated in his front yard driveway in 1978: from September 8 to 11; September 29 and 30; from October 4 to October 9; and from November 10 to November 27.

In support of the defense, among the witnesses called were Norman Brown, former fire chief of Park Ridge from 1960 to 1976; Herman Spahr, city manager of Park Ridge, testifying under section 60 of the Civil Practice Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1977, ch. 110, par. 60); Albert D. Pantino, a real estate appraiser; Billy Kervin, executive director of the Chicagoland Recreational Vehicle Dealers Association; and defendant himself. The gist of their testimony was that no fire in a recreational vehicle parked in a driveway could be recalled; although a recreational vehicle did not appear to create a greater fire hazard than an automobile parked in a driveway, due to its greater size, the fire communicability of such a vehicle increased the chance of fire spreading; no specific safety study was ever published prior to the enactment of section 9.04; in a newsletter published in 1975 by the city of Park Ridge, the ordinance was mentioned as a means of maintaining aesthetics in the neighborhood; the presence of recreational vehicles would have no adverse effect on property values; and defendant's vehicle was a class A motor home which is a complete unit with built-in sink, stove and refrigerator.

Defendant testified that he purchased the Landau motor home in 1973, equipped with a bathroom, refrigerator and stove. It is 25 feet long, 7 feet wide and 10 feet high. Prior to trial it was parked on his front driveway, but he now parks it four miles away, on business property. He had widened his existing driveway to accommodate the vehicle after he had been told by Wundsam, prior to its purchase, that there was no zoning law which prevented him from parking his vehicle on the driveway. He applied to ...

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