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Oak Lawn Tr. & Sav. Bk v. Palos Heights





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James C. Murray, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied July 6, 1983.

Plaintiffs Oak Lawn Trust & Savings Bank as trustee and Thomas Powell filed a complaint for declaratory judgment against defendant city of Palos Heights asking that the zoning ordinance of defendant be declared invalid insofar as it prevents the redevelopment of an existing school building on the subject property for professional office purposes. Following a bench trial, the court entered judgment for plaintiffs. We affirm.

The subject property (the property) consists of approximately 1.5 acres of land located in the city of Palos Heights, Illinois. It has a frontage of 185.7 feet on the north side of 127th Street and a depth of 340.8 feet along the east side of 69th Court. Currently zoned under the "R" single-family zoning classification, it is subdivided into four single-family residential lots. The property is improved with a one-story grammar school building.

As it fronts the property, 127th Street is a two-lane arterial highway having a traffic count of approximately 14,500 cars per day; 69th Court is a paved street, 18 feet wide, having a 33-foot right-of-way. There are no sidewalks along 69th Court, and there is a storm swale along one side.

Single-family residences abut the property on the north and east sides and on the west, across 69th Court. To the south of the property, across 127th Street, are single-family residences. To the southwest a church and parking lot extend westward, covering the entire block between 69th Court and 70th Avenue. Immediately west of the property, between 69th Court and 70th Avenue, are two residential structures which front on the north line of 127th Street. The structure closer to the property is used as a real estate office although no exterior sign indicates this commercial usage.

Commencing one block west of the property is an area zoned B1, Restricted Business. Two blocks west of the property is an area zoned B, Business. The heart of this commercial area is located at the intersection of 127th Street and Harlem Avenue, three blocks from the subject property. This commercial area extends outward in all directions from said intersection and contains several restaurants, a dry-cleaning establishment, a vision center, a barber shop, several beauty salons, a funeral home, a travel agency, a medical center, a pharmacy and a bank and trust company. Also located within this area are a supermarket, gasoline and service stations, a home center, a kitchen and bath shop, a pet store, and various other offices and shops.

Powell, plaintiff and beneficial owner of the property, purchased it at a public auction in March of 1975 from the Palos Heights Board of Education School District No. 128. He paid $100,000 for the property, including the land and building. The existing one-story structure contains 11,720 square feet and was utilized as a grade school until 1975.

Since acquisition the property has, for the most part, remained vacant and unused. Portions of the building have been leased for brief periods and used as a church, a political campaign headquarters, a dancing school, and for various other activities. Plaintiffs have tried to sell the property but have received only one signed offer to purchase. That offer was conditioned upon approval by the city of a prior request for a change in zoning, which request was denied. Subsequent to that denial, the city submitted an unsigned contract to purchase the property for $165,000 but later withdrew its offer.

Plaintiffs propose to remodel the existing structure in accordance with a plan submitted to the trial court for use as a professional and medical office building. The area of the building would be increased from 11,720 to 15,800 square feet, of which approximately 11,500 square feet would be rentable office space.

Rolf C. Campbell, a city planning consultant, testified that in his opinion the highest and best use of the property would allow productive use of the existing structure; the proposed use would have no material adverse effect on surrounding properties and is reasonable from a zoning and planning standpoint; and although the property is suitable for single-family residences, that is not its highest and best use. He stated that, as proposed, the developed property will have a market value of approximately $870,000 and will provide the city with $46,000 annually in tax revenue; the value of the property would be less for single-family use; approximately 100 persons would be employed in the subject property as proposed; and the proposed use would have no significant impact on 69th Court.

Also testifying for plaintiff was Joseph Zgonina, a registered professional engineer involved in the areas of civil and traffic engineering. He stated that, based on the existing and projected volume of traffic, the proposed development of the property would have no adverse impact on the existing roadway system and, further, that 69th Court has more than adequate capacity to accommodate the projected volume of traffic.

William A. McCann, a real estate appraiser, testified that the highest and best use of the property would be achieved through renovation of the existing structure and development of professional offices. He stated that the value of the property is $80,000 as presently zoned. He testified, however, that the property is unsuitable for the purpose for which it is presently zoned based on the fact that there are no new single-family residences being constructed facing 127th Street, the market for single-family housing is depressed, and in order to use the property in accordance with its present zoning the existing structure would have to be demolished. He concluded that the proposed renovation is a reasonable use of the existing structure and would not diminish the value of surrounding properties.

Defendant presented the testimony of planning and zoning consultant Allen Trayser and real estate appraiser Thomas M. Collins who concurred that the highest and best use of the property is single family residences. Collins presented evidence that the value of the property developed for single-family residences is $135,000. Traffic engineer Gerald Lindgren testified that although 127th Street has adequate capacity to accommodate the volume of traffic, 69th Court cannot adequately accommodate the type of traffic that will be generated. A school teacher and alderman of the city of Palos Heights stated that in her opinion the proposed development would have an adverse impact on the health, safety and welfare of the community due to the anticipated increase volume of ...

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