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09/01/88 the City of Elgin, v. Elgin National Bank

September 1, 1988





529 N.E.2d 639, 174 Ill. App. 3d 1061, 124 Ill. Dec. 658 1988.IL.1332

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Alfred T. Walsh, Judge, presiding.


PRESIDING JUSTICE JIGANTI delivered the opinion of the court. LINN and McMORROW, JJ., concur.


The plaintiff, the City of Elgin, filed an eminent domain complaint seeking to take 14 acres of land for the purpose of constructing a flood control facility. The defendants, Elgin National Bank, as trustee under trust No. 305, Bernard E. Cavitt, James Wilder, and unknown owners, filed a traverse and motion to dismiss on the ground that the taking was excessive. The trial court sustained the defendants' traverse and motion to dismiss. The plaintiff appeals.

The property which the plaintiff seeks to take is located in the City of Elgin. It is rectangular in shape and is bounded on the south by Poplar Creek. The plaintiff proposes to construct a levee in order to control flooding by Poplar Creek. The levee would extend approximately 1,400 feet diagonally across the defendants' property from its southwest corner to a point near its northeast corner. The property north of the levee would be used for a detention pond. The detention pond would store water in order to prevent flooding of the adjacent land.

The plaintiff's proposal was originally recommended in a 1976 report entitled "The Poplar Creek Watershed Study," which was prepared by the Poplar Creek Steering Committee with assistance from the State of Illinois, the Metropolitan Sanitary District of Greater Chicago , and the United States Department of Agriculture, Soil Conservation Service and Forest Service . The study addressed, among other things, the problems caused by the flooding of Poplar Creek and proposed the construction of a levee on the defendants' property. Although the study is not a design manual, technical data as to water flows, floodplain, floodway, and elevations were supplied by a preliminary engineering design report prepared by the SCS. This engineering report projected that 5 1/2 acres would be required for the levee and interior drainage needs.

In July of 1984, the plaintiff and the Illinois Department of Transportation entered into a sponsorship agreement which stated that IDOT would prepare all plans and specifications. This plan would designate the land necessary for the project. In 1985, the plaintiff passed an ordinance authorizing the acquisition of the subject property for flood control purposes in accordance with the IDOT plan.

At trial, Robert Culli, a civil engineer employed by IDOT, testified for the plaintiff. Culli was responsible for refining the project as originally outlined in the 1976 study. Specifically, Culli worked on the hydraulic design of the levee. Culli testified that in preparing his layout of the project, he relied on technical data in the SCS preliminary engineering report as well as his own computations. When asked questions regarding relocation of the levee along the south and east boundary lines of the subject property, Culli responded that he never studied what effect relocation of the levee would have on land in the surrounding area. Culli concluded that the land which the plaintiff proposed to take is useful, necessary, and convenient for the construction of the levee and detention pond. This Conclusion was repeated by Gary Miller, director of public works for the City of Elgin, who also testified for the plaintiff.

William Lindley, a civil engineer, testified for the defendants. Lindley stated that some levee, dike or other control must be provided along Poplar Creek to restrict the flow of floodwaters. Lindley made a study of the subject area and proposed, over the plaintiff's objection, an alternative design to prevent flooding in the area. Lindley testified that his alternative design would accomplish the same result as the plaintiff's plan.

Lindley's flood prevention proposal would be accomplished by constructing a dike across the eastern and southern edge of the subject property instead of in the middle of the property. A detention area would be located partially upon the subject property but mostly located upon other property located immediately north, owned by the Elgin Rifle Club. A gravity drain would be constructed running south from the detention area. Lindley did not know if the City of Elgin owned this property upon which its gravity drain would be placed.

In Lindley's opinion, the taking of 14 acres for the purpose of preventing flooding in the area is unnecessary and excessive. Lindley stated that 14 acres are not necessary because the same result could be accomplished with his plan, which would require taking only two acres for the levee, a small part of the subject property for detention, and a small part of property north of the subject property which is owned by the Elgin Rifle Club. Lindley stated that this was in conformance with the preliminary engineering study made by the SCS report which projected a taking of approximately five acres.

On appeal, the plaintiff argues that the trial court's Conclusion that the taking is excessive is against the manifest ...

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