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Griffin v. City of North Chicago

OPINION FILED FEBRUARY 2, 1983.

HAROLD GRIFFIN ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

THE CITY OF NORTH CHICAGO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Harry D. Strouse, Jr., Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE HOPF DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Defendant, City of North Chicago, appeals from the declaratory judgment entered on December 23, 1981, in the circuit court of Lake County in favor of plaintiffs, Harold Griffin and Lake County Forest Preserve District (the Forest Preserve). On appeal, defendant argues that section 6 of "An Act to provide for the creation and management of forest preserve districts in counties having a population of less than 3,000,000" (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 96 1/2, par. 6309) (the Act) prohibits plaintiffs from consummating their real estate sales contract, executed on February 20, 1981, without defendant's consent. The trial court held the Act's consent requirement inapplicable to plaintiffs' purchase agreement, finding that to apply the consent requirement would give it a retrospective application.

The Forest Preserve approved a resolution on October 10, 1975, designating certain parcels of land in Lake County for acquisition pursuant to a study finding the land suitable for forest preserve, flood control and related purposes. This resolution called for the appraisal, survey, title search and the making of an offer to purchase this property, the amount of compensation and terms of purchase "subject to the final approval of [the] Board." It further provided that should the Forest Preserve and individual property owners be unable to agree upon a purchase price, condemnation proceedings should be initiated.

Griffin owns a single-family residence located on a parcel of land situated entirely in the city of North Chicago and designated for acquisition by the Forest Preserve pursuant to its 1975 resolution. After negotiations, Griffin and the Forest Preserve entered into a real estate sales contract on February 20, 1981, for the purchase of this property. The contract included a rider which subjected the contract to the Forest Preserve obtaining "the concurrence of the City of North Chicago, as required by law."

Apparently this paragraph's presence results from an amendment, effective January 1, 1981, to the Act. The Act grants forest preserve districts the power to acquire land in order to fulfill the purposes for which the districts were established. The amendment provides in pertinent part, however:

"No district with a population less than 600,000 shall have the power to purchase or condemn property within a municipality without the concurrence of the governing body of the municipality * * *." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 96 1/2, par. 6309.

The city of North Chicago refused to consent to the proposed sale. Thereupon, the Forest Preserve and Griffin filed a complaint for declaratory relief asking that the court declare the amendment to be both inapplicable to their sales contract and unconstitutional. On December 23, 1981, the court held the amendment inapplicable to plaintiffs' real estate contract. To hold it applicable, the court said, would give it a retrospective effect. In the court's judgment order, it made, inter alia, the following findings:

(1) The Forest Preserve has been engaged in the acquisition of land for the "Green Belt Forest Preserve" since 1969;

(2) The Forest Preserve designated the land for this preserve by resolution, no later than May 24, 1976;

(3) The Forest Preserve delays instituting eminent domain proceedings on single-family residences designated for acquisition until that land is required for the preserve;

(4) Griffin owns land designated for acquisition and has voluntarily agreed to sell this land to the Forest Preserve;

(5) The City of North Chicago refused to consent to the sale; and

(6) To apply the amendment to the Act to this property "would be to give the statute a retrospective application which was not intended by the legislature, and would be arbitrary, unreasonable, and unjust."

The court declined to pass on plaintiffs' constitutional claims. We note that the above order did not specify that a contract had ...


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