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03/13/87 John Peterson Et Al., v. the City of Highland Park

March 13, 1987





506 N.E.2d 604, 153 Ill. App. 3d 826, 106 Ill. Dec. 804 1987.IL.297

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County; the Hon. Fred A. Geiger, Judge, presiding.

Rehearing Denied May 4, 1987.


Justice Hopf delivered the opinion of the court. Dunn and Unverzagt, JJ., concur.


This is an appeal from a judgment upholding a local zoning ordinance. Plaintiffs, John and Rita Peterson, seek to overturn an ordinance adopted by defendant, city of Highland Park, which granted a special use permit. Plaintiffs contend that the trial court erred in granting judgment for defendants because (1) the city had no authority to issue the subject special use permit, (2) defendant failed to follow its own special use permitting procedures, (3) the special use permit ordinance is unconstitutional because it is arbitrary and capricious, and (4) the trial court misinterpreted the city's zoning ordinance.

Defendant, Highland Park Hospital (hospital), is currently located on 22.6 acres of property in the city of Highland Park (city). It has been at its present location since 1918. In 1978 the city adopted a zoning ordinance which placed the hospital property in an RM-2 zoning district. An RM-2 district is intended to provide for high-density multiple-family residential uses. Hospitals may be located in RM-2 districts but only as special uses. Accordingly, since adoption of the zoning ordinance in 1978, the hospital has continued to operate at its present site under a series of special use permits.

In June 1985, pursuant to zoning ordinance requirements, the hospital filed an application with the city for a special use permit to construct on its property a medical office building with a weather-enclosed connection to the hospital. Peter Friend, the hospital's executive vice-president, appeared before the Highland Park Plan Commission (plan commission) on June 18, 1985, to discuss the three-story, 40,000-square-foot facility. On July 2, 1985, a public hearing was held before the plan commission. During the hearing, both the city's director of community development and representatives of the hospital made presentations, answered questions, and addressed the concerns expressed by commission members. A number of citizens also expressed their views and asked questions. The hospital project was further discussed at two succeeding plan commission meetings by commission members, local businessmen, hospital representatives, neighbors, and other city residents.

Subsequently, the plan commission prepared a document entitled "Findings of Fact" as required by the zoning ordinance. These findings, along with both a favorable recommendation on the MOB from the commission and a summary of the statements of opponents of the building, were presented to the Highland Park city council (city council) for council action.

The proposed MOB was discussed at the city council meetings of September 9, 1985, and October 7, 1985. On these occasions the city council allowed Discussion by hospital representatives, plan commission members, and city residents. The ordinance granting a special use permit to the hospital for construction of the office building was enacted on October 11, 1985. The ordinance permitted construction of the MOB "accessory to the Hospital use."

Plaintiffs, John and Rita Peterson, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and injunctive relief from the MOB ordinance on November 12, 1985. The Petersons are neighbors of the hospital. They own a home in which they live as well as the property next door to them. Their property line is located approximately 120 feet from the hospital property line but approximately 800 feet from the proposed MOB itself.

The Petersons' complaint alleged essentially the same defects in the ordinance and its passage that they raise on appeal, i.e., that it was passed without lawful authority and in violation of permitting procedures set forth in the zoning ordinance and that the ordinance is arbitrary and unreasonable. At trial plaintiffs' lawful-authority argument developed along two lines: (1) the city's zoning ordinance, on its face, prohibited the MOB on the hospital's property; and (2) defendants could not clothe the MOB special use ordinance with authority by characterizing the MOB as an accessory use or accessory building to the hospital.

At the close of plaintiffs' case during the bench trial of this matter, defendants moved for a directed verdict. The court's ruling on the motion dealt separately with the three issues raised by plaintiffs. Defendants' motion was granted as to the contentions that the city had violated its own zoning ordinance procedures and that the ordinance was unconstitutional. The motion was denied as to plaintiffs' claim that the city had improperly determined that the MOB was an accessory use.

At the end of the trial, the court held that the MOB was an accessory use to the hospital use of the subject property and entered judgment in favor of defendants and against plaintiffs. This appeal followed.

The first question we must answer is whether the trial court erred when it granted defendants' motion for directed verdict as to two of the issues raised by plaintiffs. Section 2-1110 of the Code of Civil Procedure (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-1110) provides that, in nonjury cases, a defendant may move for a finding or judgment in his favor after the close of plaintiff's case. In ruling on such a motion, the trial court must first determine, as a matter of law, whether the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case. If he has not, the motion should be granted and judgment entered in defendant's favor. (Kokinis v. Kotrich (1980), 81 Ill. 2d 151, 154-55, 407 N.E.2d 43.) Where the plaintiff has made out a prima facie case, however, the trial court must consider all the evidence, including that which favors the defendant, determine the credibility of witnesses, draw reasonable inferences from the testimony, and consider the overall weight and quality of the evidence. (81 Ill. 2d 151, 154-55, 407 N.E.2d 43; Ill. Rev. Stat. 1985, ch. 110, par. 2-1110.) If the weighing process negates some of the evidence necessary to plaintiff's prima facie case, the defendant's motion should be granted. If the plaintiff's prima facie case remains established even after the weighing process, the motion must be denied, and the trial should continue. 81 Ill. 2d 151, 155, 407 N.E.2d 43.

In the case at bar, the trial court found that plaintiffs had not presented sufficient evidence to establish a prima facie case that defendants violated their own ordinance. Plaintiffs insist, however, that the city failed to follow its zoning ordinance in that the plan commission did not make certain findings as required by the ordinance and purported to make other findings without any adequate evidentiary basis. We find plaintiffs' position to be unfounded.

Section 150.100 of the city's zoning ordinance is concerned with "Special Uses." The section details the purpose of the special use classification, the types of special use permits, and the requirements and procedure for issuance for a special use permit. Section 150.100.3 mandates that:

"No special use permit shall be recommended by the

Plan Commission for approval by the City

Council unless the Commission shall make the fol-

lowing findings about the proposed special use: Minimum Regulations. It shall comply with not

less than the minimum regulations of the district in

which the proposed site is located. Public Welfare. It shall be so ...

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