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Medical Center Com. v. United Church





Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur L. Dunne, Judge, presiding.


After a bench trial, the circuit court of Cook County entered judgment for plaintiff State of Illinois Medical Center Commission (the Commission), approving the partial taking of real property from defendant United Church of the Medical Center (United Church) and awarding United Church $45,000 as just compensation for the property. On appeal, United Church argues: (1) the Commission's condemnation of the property was invalid because it failed to identify the purpose and proposed use or necessity for the taking of the property; (2) the condemnation proceedings were fatally infected with administrative bias and conflict of interest; (3) the trial court erred in its determination that United Church's fee-parking activity on the condemned property rose to the level of a secular use, thereby destroying its religious exemption status; and (4) the court erred in denying United Church's cross-petition for severance damages to the remainder property. United Church does not contest the valuation of compensation for the taken property. For the reasons set forth below, we affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand the cause for proceedings consistent with this opinion.

This case involves an eminent domain action instituted by the plaintiff Commission pursuant to the provisions of section 7-101 of the Illinois Code of Civil Procedure. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 7-101 et seq.) On May 28, 1980, the Commission filed a petition to condemn three of 10 lots, 150' x 75', utilized by United Church as a parking lot for its employees' and parishioners' use and as leased parking to some of the area's medical personnel. The condemned property (the parking facility — Lots 1 through 3) is located at the southwest corner of Harrison Street and Ashland Avenue in Chicago, and the remainder property (the sanctuary — Lots 4 through 10) directly to the south thereof. Various constituent organizations and officials of the United Methodist Church were included as party defendants and have joined with United Church to assert a common position in its behalf as the real party in interest and occupant of both the condemned property and the remainder.

The record discloses that the Medical Center District Act (the Act) created the plaintiff Commission and conferred on it jurisdiction over a medical center district located on the west side of Chicago. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 111 1/2, par. 5001 et seq.) The Act expressly authorizes the Commission to acquire by eminent domain property within the district's boundaries necessary for its purposes of establishing a medical center district. Section 3 of the Act exempts property owned by religious organizations which is used for religious purposes, but also empowers the Commission to acquire property which is "used for both religious and secular purposes." Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 111 1/2, par. 5004.

The record further reveals that the Commission's condemnation of the property was authorized by three resolutions enacted by the Commission on June 16, 1978, September 15, 1978, and December 14, 1979. The resolutions stated that the acquisition was for the "purpose" provided in the Act. During the pendency of this case, the Commission passed a fourth resolution on July 17, 1981, more definitively defining its purpose for taking the property as "medical institutional expansion."

In response to the petition to condemn, United Church filed an original and four amended traverses, alleging that the taking was invalid because:

"(1) the Commission could not and would not divulge its actual purpose in taking the property or any proposed use for the property;

(2) the condemnation proceeding was fatally infected by a conflict of interest in that three of the four Medical Center commissioners who voted for the definitive resolution were impermissibly related to Rush-Presbyterian St. Luke's Hospital, the alleged "behind-the-scenes" moving force which induced the Commission to act; and

(3) the property was an integral part of United Church's operation and it therefore was exempt from condemnation under the Medical Center District Act which expressly prohibits the taking of property owned by religious organizations, except parcels used for both religious and secular purposes."

On October 29, 1982, the trial court denied the traverse based on its determination that United Church's rental parking activity on the subject property was secular in nature and, accordingly, destroyed its religious exemption from condemnation of its property by the Commission. The court did not address the issues of the Commission's alleged failure or refusal to disclose the proposed use of the property or the alleged conflict of interest question.

On February 18, 1983, the trial court certified an interlocutory appeal by United Church pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308 (87 Ill.2d R. 308). In its application for leave to appeal, United Church raised the issues of whether the Commission adequately identified the purpose of the taking, the ultimate use to be given the property and necessity thereof, and whether United Church's parking activity was sufficient to deprive it of the statutory exemption against condemnation of religiously owned property. The application was denied by this court on May 8, 1983.

Trial of the matter was resumed by the court below in August 1984. United Church subsequently filed a cross-petition to recover severance damages to the remainder of its property, claiming curtailment of parking space, loss of ingress, light and frontage exposure. In its consideration of the cross-petition, the court stated that United Church's recovery of damages to the remainder was dependent upon whether the unities of use, contiguity and title existed between the property taken and the remainder on the date of the filing of the petition to condemn. The court found that even though United Church held title when it filed its cross-petition, it lacked title at the time of the filing of the petition to condemn on May 28, 1980. At that time, title in the remainder property was held by a predecessor Methodist congregation and later a Presbyterian church, both having been part of a combined Methodist/Presbyterian program conducted by United Church on the sanctuary property. Accordingly, the court entered judgment in favor of the Commission, approving the condemnation of Lots 1 through 3 and awarding United Church $45,000 as just compensation for the taking of the property.

We first address United Church's contention that the failure of the Commission to specify or identify the purpose or use to which it intends to put the condemned property contravenes the Eminent Domain Act (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 7-102). United Church argues that in the absence of an announced purpose tied to any future use and necessity, the Commission lacked authority to condemn its property. It relies on People v. Young Women's Christian Association (1981), 86 Ill.2d 219, 427 N.E.2d 70, which addressed the existence or absence of a public purpose, future use and necessity as requisites for a taking of property. There, in finding that the condemning body failed to show a necessity for the taking for a courts' complex, our supreme court held that although the question of necessity is essentially within the power of the condemning body, a court may and should upon a traverse on the property inquire into the necessity for the use to determine whether the condemning body acted arbitrarily.

In the present case, the Commission asserts it did not act arbitrarily and that its condemnation of the subject property for medical purposes is a legally adequate specification for the taking even though the ultimate medical use or uses of the property have not as yet been determined. In support of this contention, it cites City of Chicago v. Barnes (1964), 30 Ill.2d 255, 195 N.E.2d 629, which held that condemnation powers are properly exercised if the express use ...

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