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03/22/94 W.J. LITTLEJOHN v. CITY NORTH CHICAGO

March 22, 1994

W.J. LITTLEJOHN, THE CHURCH OF THE WORD OF GOD, AND TRACY LAMB, PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES,
v.
THE CITY OF NORTH CHICAGO, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from the Circuit Court Lake County. No. 91-MR-482. Honorable Jack Hoogasian, Judge, Presiding.

Doyle, Colwell, PECCARELLI

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Doyle

JUSTICE DOYLE delivered the opinion of the court:

Plaintiffs, Reverend W.J. Littlejohn, the Church of the Word of God, and Tracy Lamb, filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and other relief in the circuit court of Lake County against defendant, the City of North Chicago. Plaintiffs' complaint sought, in part, a declaration that a particular zoning ordinance, which prevented plaintiffs from renovating and using the subject property as a religious institution, was unconstitutional and void on its face. Following a bench trial, the trial court held that plaintiffs' due process and free exercise clause claims were without merit. The court further concluded, however, that the zoning ordinance was invalid because it was confiscatory and void as it related to plaintiffs' property. Defendant timely appeals.

Defendant raises the following issues: (1) whether the trial court'sdetermination of invalidity was against the manifest weight of the evidence; (2) whether Reverend Littlejohn and the Church of the Word of God had standing to challenge the validity of the zoning ordinance; and (3) whether plaintiffs failed to comply with the expert witness disclosure requirements of Supreme Court Rule 220(b) (see 134 Ill. 2d R. 220(b)) by calling defendant's experts at trial as adverse witnesses without prior disclosure to defendant.

As in most zoning cases, it is necessary to describe briefly the subject property and the surrounding area. The subject property is located on Sheridan Road in North Chicago, Illinois. Sheridan Road runs generally in a north-south direction. Crossing Sheridan Road in an east-west direction at fairly regular intervals are 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th and 18th Streets, with 14th Street being the northernmost street. Midway between 16th Street and 17th Street is Foss Park Avenue, which runs eastward from Sheridan Road with its western terminus at Sheridan Road. The subject property is located at the southeast corner of Sheridan Road and Foss Park Avenue.

Originally operated as a movie theater over 20 years ago, the subject property now sits vacant. Tracy Lamb, the owner of the building, testified that the building was in excellent condition, that the interior was sparse and clean, and it was tuck-pointed in 1987 and reroofed in 1989. Additionally, the building had been eradicated of asbestos at a total cost of $40,000. According to Lamb, the Church of the Word of God contributed $25,000 toward the asbestos removal.

The surrounding area can best be described as a mix of business, industrial, and residential uses interspersed with pockets of urban blight. Between the property and 17th Street to the south, and along the east side of Sheridan Road, is a vacant lot, a closed business, a narrower vacant lot, a tent rental company, and a sign business. Continuing south toward 18th Street is a parking lot, a four-story apartment building, and in smaller storefront buildings, a sundry store, a hair salon, a beauty salon, a Chinese restaurant, a clothing store, a bookstore, and, housed in a larger building, a bank.

North of the subject property, and commencing in order, is a small radiator repair shop, a residential building, a small single-family (in appearance) house, and a double-sized storefront building with residential accommodations above. Located immediately behind the first residential building and house is a burned-out residential building.

Continuing northward along the east side of Sheridan toward 15th Street is a bowling alley, and continuing past 14th Street is a large parking lot which fronts on Sheridan Road. Immediately east of the large parking lot and bowling alley is a large industrial complex, which houses Abbott Laboratories.

From an aerial photograph admitted in evidence, it appears that eastward along both sides of Foss Park Avenue are single-family residences. Additionally, located behind the businesses fronting Sheridan Road on the east side and between 17th Street and 16th Street is a street-width, or wider, vacant area, which appears to serve as parking for those businesses.

Directly across from the subject property, on the west side of Sheridan Road, is a vacant lot. Proceeding northward, and in order, is a small residential building, a parking lot, a three-story apartment building, and a fast-food restaurant. North of 16th Street is a parking lot, a diner with parking, a postal facility, and a small office building.

South of the vacant lot which sits directly across from the subject property, and proceeding south along the west side of Sheridan Road, is a small residential facility, a vacant lot, another residential building, and a parking lot and larger commercial or business type building. Between 17th Street and 18th Street are numerous small businesses located generally in storefront buildings. There are six retail shops, four restaurants, three taverns, and five combination business/residential buildings. Also located along this stretch are four vacant lots or businesses. Running the entire length from 15th Street south to 18th Street, the photograph appears to depict residential housing located behind the lots and buildings which front Sheridan Road from the west side.

To summarize, the entire area between 14th Street and 18th Street along Sheridan Road contains, as nearly as we are able to ascertain, 13 retail or service outlets, 7 restaurants, 4 parking lots, 3 taverns, a bank, 10 empty lots or vacant buildings, 5 mixed residential/business buildings, 2 office buildings, a United States Postal facility, 3 small residential buildings, 2 apartment buildings, and a large industrial complex.

It was undisputed that at the inception of this action the subject property and the entire area along the Sheridan Road corridor was zoned B-2 general business district. Under the North Chicago ordinance, a copy of which was admitted in evidence, B-2 zoning permits a variety of retail shops, specialty shops, services, financial institutions, and offices. Approximately 130 specific uses are enumerated, including, as examples, commercial and industrial services, commercial schools, financial service institutions, food service, business offices, certain public facilities, certain recreational facilities, upper story apartment buildings with one to four units, apartment hotels, and a multitude of retail sales outlets. Religious institutions are not designated as a permitted use in B-2 zoning. Furthermore, religious institutions require residential zoning and the issuance of a special-use permit.

On April 11, 1989, the Church of the Word of God (Church) executed a two-year lease, commencing January 1, 1990, with the Michigan Avenue National Bank, as trustee, for the subject property. Tracy Lamb, the trust's sole beneficiary, signed the lease as agent for the trust. Reverend Littlejohn and two of the Church deacons signed the lease on behalf of the Church. The monthly rent was $1,200, and it further included an option to extend "for an additional 8 years at $2500." Lamb testified, however, that following the first year of payments at $1,200 per month and remodeling, he would donate the subject property to the Church. When asked what he thought the property's value was, Lamb testified that as a church he thought the property had a value of $1 million, but if it were to remain vacant the building would be of no value.

Reverend Littlejohn testified that after he signed the lease for the subject property and expended $25,000 for asbestos removal, he learned that the current zoning would not permit use of the property as a religious institution. Following a petition for a map amendment, the community development and planning commission recommended to the zoning board of appeals that the petition be denied, citing four reasons: (1) that the area was in economic decline; (2) that the site was in the path of the proposed lake front highway, which meant ...


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