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Edwards v. City of Quincy

OPINION FILED MAY 30, 1984.

WILLIAM R. EDWARDS ET AL., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,

v.

THE CITY OF QUINCY ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Adams County; the Hon. Fred W. Reither, Judge, presiding.

JUSTICE MILLER DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

The plaintiffs, William and Verlee Edwards, sued the defendants, the city of Quincy and city officials, to recover damages for alleged statutory and constitutional violations. Acting on the defendants' motion to dismiss, the trial court held the doctrines of res judicata and collateral estoppel along with the operation of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 85, par. 1-101 et seq.) barred the plaintiffs' suit. The plaintiffs appeal, and we affirm. Because we decide that res judicata bars the plaintiffs' suit, we need not address the issue of whether the act is also a bar.

On April 4, 1979, the plaintiffs agreed to purchase property in the city of Quincy. The building on the property was operated as a beauty parlor, a valid nonconforming use under the city's zoning ordinance. The plaintiffs conditioned their offer to purchase on their ability to use the property as a cocktail lounge and restaurant, also a nonconforming use. The plaintiffs contacted city officials, and after they concluded they could get a building permit to remodel, they purchased the property.

On June 19, 1979, the plaintiffs applied for their building permit. Instead of their permit, the plaintiffs received a letter advising them that their application had been rejected because their proposed use of the property violated the zoning ordinance. The plaintiffs appealed to the zoning board of appeals for the city of Quincy. Before the appeal was heard, the city council approved a resolution directing the building inspector to delay issuance of permits involving a shifting of nonconforming uses.

On August 2, 1979, the board held a hearing. Judi Maas, secretary to the city's planning commission, testified the plaintiffs had inquired about the zoning ordinance. She had sent them a letter stating that as long as a building is not enlarged, reconstructed, or structurally altered, it could be used for a different nonconforming use.

Dave Wilson, the city's building inspector, also testified. Wilson had always interpreted the ordinance to exclude only extensions, enlargements, or structural alterations on the outside of the building. He informed the plaintiffs of this interpretation. Wilson accepted the plaintiffs' money for a permit when the plaintiffs applied. He also signed the application stating that it was approved by the building inspector. Later, the corporation counsel, James Rapp, instructed Wilson to scratch out "approved" and put in "accepted."

William Edwards testified that besides checking with the building inspector and the planning commission, he also asked the mayor whether his nonconforming use was permissible. After the mayor stated it was, Edwards bought the property.

The board also heard evidence on the remodeling the plaintiffs wanted to do. The plaintiffs intended to remodel only the interior of the building. Finally, the evidence showed the building had previously been operated as a beauty parlor and as a bakery, both nonconforming uses.

On August 15, 1979, the board issued its opinion and denied the permit. On September 5, 1979, the city council amended its zoning ordinance to eliminate shifting of nonconforming uses which altered the character of a neighborhood. The city council approved the board's decision on September 10, 1979.

On September 19, 1979, the plaintiffs filed an administrative review suit. Count I alleged the board's decision was arbitrary, discriminatory, unconstitutional, contrary to law, and not supported by the evidence. The complaint asserted the board's decision would result in unnecessary and undue hardship to the plaintiffs, and amounted to a taking of property without due process of law. Counts II and III made the same allegations against the city council and the city itself.

The plaintiffs later filed an amendment to their complaint. They alleged they were denied a fair and impartial hearing because only four of the seven members of the board heard their appeal, and the board failed to conduct an open meeting. The trial court granted a motion to strike the amendment because the issues it raised were not raised before the board.

The trial court remanded the case to the board to make specific findings of fact. The board did so, but the court later rejected these findings. On July 25, 1980, the court reversed the board's decision and ordered the city to issue the permit. The city appealed, and we reversed the trial court in Edwards v. Zoning Board of Appeals (1981), 95 Ill. App.3d 455, 420 N.E.2d 228, holding the plaintiffs were not entitled to their permit under the ordinance.

On November 19, 1982, the plaintiffs filed their present complaint seeking compensatory damages. They first allege city officials assured them they could get a permit and they bought in reliance on these assurances. They also contend the city had an established local governmental standard which entitled them to their permit. They maintain that Rapp illegally instructed Wilson to alter their permit application. The plaintiffs further assert the board denied them due process because only four members heard their appeal, and the board failed to conduct a fair and impartial hearing when deliberating on the case and later on remandment. They contend the city council illegally directed the building inspector to withhold permits. The plaintiffs conclude the defendants' actions deprived them of due process and equal protection and amounted to a taking of property without just compensation. They seek damages for reduction in market value and lost use of their property as well as other expenses relating to the establishment of the proposed business.

The defendants filed a motion to dismiss the complaint with prejudice. On July 15, 1983, the trial court granted the motion. The court held the decision in Edwards barred the plaintiffs' present suit. The court also held the Local Governmental and ...


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