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Chicago Title & Tr. Co. v. County of Cook

OPINION FILED DECEMBER 15, 1983.

CHICAGO TITLE AND TRUST COMPANY, TRUSTEE, ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,

v.

THE COUNTY OF COOK, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE — (THE VILLAGE OF NORTHBROOK, COUNTERPLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE COUNTY OF COOK, ET AL., COUNTERDEFENDANTS AND THIRD-PARTY DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES).



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Anthony J. Scotillo, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE JOHNSON DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

This appeal arises from litigation challenging the rezoning of a parcel of land located in an unincorporated area of Cook County. The dispute has a lengthy history which involves hearings before the Cook County Zoning Board of Appeals (Zoning Board), the circuit court of Cook County (the County), and an interlocutory appeal to this court in an earlier matter.

The issues raised on appeal are (1) whether the trial court's finding of validity of the rezoning ordinance is supported by the evidence; (2) whether the village of Riverwoods submitted a valid protest against the rezoning; (3) whether the doctrine of res judicata bars the trial court's ruling upholding the rezoning and special use; and (4) whether the rezoning and special use constitutes illegal contract and spot zoning.

We affirm.

In its most basic sense, this action is brought by the Village of Northbrook (the Village) to prevent a four-acre tract in an unincorporated area of Cook County, near Lake-Cook Road and Sanders Road, from being developed with a two-story office building.

After denying four earlier petitions for rezoning the subject property, the Cook County Board of Commissioners (County Board) adopted an amendatory zoning ordinance and special use to permit the construction of a two-story office building as of January 22, 1981. The rezoning of the subject property was challenged by the Village in a six-count countercomplaint filed in the chancery division of the circuit court of Cook County following the County Board's approval of the property owner's request for rezoning. The history of this litigation is lengthy and the facts are voluminous. Those facts pertinent to the resolution of this appeal are, here, summarized.

Chicago Title and Trust held legal title to the subject property as trustee. During the period since the original petition for rezoning was filed in 1971, title has been transferred to American National Bank and Trust Company which now holds legal title. Chicago Title and Trust Company no longer has any interest in the litigation. The beneficial interest owner of the property, Joseph Judah, is not a named party to this action.

In 1971, Chicago Title and Trust Company, as Trustee, petitioned the County Board to rezone the property from an R-3 residential district to a B-4 business district. That petition was denied. Chicago Title and Trust Company filed suit in the chancery division of the circuit court of Cook County challenging the County Board's denial of its petition. (Chicago Title & Trust Co. v. County of Cook, 72 CH 4519.) That complaint was dismissed with prejudice on December 16, 1974.

In 1975, the property owner again petitioned for rezoning from single-family residential to a commercial district. The County Board denied the petition. However, the area was reclassified as an R-4 residential district. That classification was in effect the same as the previous R-3 classification which permitted only single-family use.

In 1976, the property owner again petitioned for rezoning from R-4 (single-family residential) to C-4 (general commercial). Once again the petition was denied. The instant court action was instituted by the Chicago Title and Trust Company against Cook County, following the denial of the 1976 petition for rezoning. The Village of Northbrook was granted leave to intervene as a defendant.

The Village filed a motion to dismiss the Chicago Title and Trust Company's complaint on the ground that the dismissal with prejudice in 1974 of the 1972 suit invoked the doctrine of res judicata, thus barring the present suit. The Village's motion was denied.

An interlocutory appeal was brought by the Village and, on September 6, 1978, this court remanded the cause to the trial court and issued an order which stated in pertinent part:

"(2) The order appealed from is reversed insofar as it denies the motion of intervenor-appellant to dismiss plaintiff's complaint on the ground of res judicata. This court holds that the dismissal of plaintiff's complaint with prejudice constitutes a legal bar to further proceedings, subject, however, to the qualification expressed in paragraph (3) here of.

(3) The cause is remanded to the circuit court with directions that a limited hearing be held to determine whether there has been any change in the circumstances of the parties hereto or of the subject property since December 16, 1974, (date of dismissal with prejudice of the previous complaint filed by plaintiff-appellee during 1972), which would in law authorize plaintiff to proceed with the litigation, and then to enter appropriate orders on the resulting finding."

Following this remand to the trial court, legal title was transferred from Chicago Title and Trust Company to American National Bank and Trust Company.

In 1980, the property owner sought and was allowed to file an amended complaint. The amendment limited the request for relief to seeking only those office uses that are normally permitted in a C-4 zoning district. The Village then filed a motion to strike the property owner's amended complaint. Both motions were continued generally by the trial court until the property owner had exhausted administrative remedies.

During the period in which the cause was pending in the trial court, the property owner submitted a new application to the County Board. The application sought a change from the R-4 single-family designation to C-4 commercial designation.

The property owner's application was approved and the County Board rezoned the property to a C-4 commercial area with a special use provision allowing for the construction of an office building. There were certain specifications for the type of building to be constructed, the landscaping and development of its environs.

The Village then filed its countercomplaint in the pending suit (1976 action) challenging the rezoning and special use. This countercomplaint necessarily caused the parties to shift their legal positions. The Village and the County now found themselves to be adversaries. The County and the legal titleholder (counterdefendants) now jointly opposed the Village. Count I of the countercomplaint charged that because the village of Riverwoods had filed a valid protest against the rezoning, the Cook County Zoning Ordinance mandates that a favorable vote by three-fourths of all members of the Board of Commissioners was necessary for adoption of the rezoning and special use ordinance. Count II of the countercomplaint charged that in reviewing whether the rezoning was reasonable, the doctrine of res judicata limited the trial court's review of the rezoning to whether the circumstances of the surrounding property had changed during the time since the initial petition for rezoning was filed in 1974.

Count III of the countercomplaint charged that the rezoning ordinance was invalid because the Zoning Board did not submit its findings of facts and recommendations to the County Board within 90 days after the public hearings. The trial court's order with respect to count III of the countercomplaint is not being appealed by the Village.

Count IV of the countercomplaint charged that the rezoning and special use amounted to illegal contract zoning. Count V of the countercomplaint charged that the rezoning and special use was not reasonably related to the public health, safety and welfare. Count VI of the countercomplaint challenged the County's authority to issue a building permit for the proposed development. The trial court held that count VI was not yet ripe for adjudication. A trial was held on the remaining counts of the Village's countercomplaint.

At trial it was established that following a public hearing on the proposed rezoning, the village of Riverwoods filed a resolution with the Zoning Board protesting the rezoning and special use. This protest was mailed to the following: the secretary of the Zoning Board, Joseph Judah (owner of the beneficial interest in the property), Mr. Judah's attorney, the president of the County Board, the attorney for the Village of Northbrook, the village manager of Deerfield, the village manager of Northbrook, and at least one other attorney. The protest was mailed within 30 days following the close of the public hearings. However, the Zoning Board noted that it was not received within 30 days after the hearings.

The owner of the property proposed to develop a two-story office building of approximately 44,000 square feet. The proposal included privately maintained sewer and water systems. A large portion of the subject property would be paved. ...


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