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03/25/94 DEPARTMENT TRANSPORTATION STATE ILLINOIS

March 25, 1994

THE DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, FOR AND ON BEHALF OF THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
DENNIS E. PARR AND BETTY J. PARR, JOSEPH MEYER, AND EDWIN T. O'CONNOR, PEORIA COUNTY TREASURER, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 10th Judicial Circuit, Peoria County, Illinois. No. 90E07. Honorable John A. Gorman, Judge Presiding

As Modified April 15, 1994. The Name of this Case has been Corrected by the Court April 29, 1994. Petition for Leave to Appeal Denied October 6, 1994.

Present - Honorable Peg Breslin, Justice, Honorable Tobias Barry, Justice, Honorable Michael P. Mccuskey, Justice

OPINION

Pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 308 (134 Ill. 2d R. 308), the circuit court of Peoria County certified a question of law to this court. The certified question asks whether the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) may introduce alleged environmental remediation costs at eminent domain proceedings in determining the fair market value of the subject property. We answer the question in the negative because: (1) environmental remediation costs, standing alone, have no direct bearing on the valuation of condemned property; and (2) the admission of environmental remediation costs into evidence would violate the due process rights of property owners under the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. As a result, we affirm the trial court's decision to exclude this evidence and remand this cause to the trial court for further proceedings consistent with this order.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

Dennis and Betty Parr (the Parrs) owned property abutting the Illinois River at 412 Southwest Washington Street in Peoria. In early 1990, IDOT informed the Parrs that the construction of the Robert H. Michel bridge necessitated the condemnation of their property. At that time, IDOT informed the Parrs that they owed IDOT over $100,000 for the property's environmental remediation costs.

On May 30, 1990, IDOT filed a complaint in the circuit court of Peoria County seeking to condemn the Parrs' property. On June 29, 1990, the Parrs filed a motion to dismiss the complaint, alleging that IDOT failed to make a good faith offer of just compensation for the property. On August 9, 1990, IDOT filed an action seeking title to the property in a quick-take proceeding pursuant to section 7-103 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/7-103 (West 1992)). At the quick-take bench trial, IDOT presented evidence appraising the property's value at zero due to the alleged presence of environmental hazards on the property and the costs of removing the hazards.

On October 4, 1990, the circuit court awarded possession of the property to IDOT. However, the trial court in its written order found section 7-119 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/7-119 (West 1992)), governing the admissibility of evidence in eminent domain proceedings, inapplicable to alleged environmental hazards. Further, the court found that IDOT failed to prove the existence of an "unsafe or unlawful condition" on the property. Finally, the court set preliminary just compensation at $40,700.

When IDOT assumed possession of the property, the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (Agency) took investigative action and sought to correct any environmental hazards on the property. IDOT reached an agreement with the Agency regarding the remediation procedures necessary to alleviate any contamination.

QUESTION CERTIFIED PURSUANT TO SUPREME COURT RULE 308

On December 9, 1992, the Parrs filed a motion to bar all testimony concerning environmental contamination at the trial to determine just compensation. On January 12, 1993, the trial court held a hearing at which the court ordered the parties to present additional briefs and argument addressing: (1) whether evidence of environmental clean-up costs was admissible at the condemnation trial; and (2) whether the evidence would implicate the Parrs' procedural due process rights. At a hearing on May 12, 1993, the trial court granted the Parrs' motion to exclude testimony regarding environmental waste and remediation costs. On July 21, 1993, the trial court certified the following question of law to this court:

"Whether the Illinois Eminent Domain Act and Illinois Environmental Protection Act, along with Illinois common law, gives the Illinois Department of Transportation the authority to introduce alleged environmental clean-up costs into evidence at condemnation proceedings in determining the fair market value of the subject property or would the introduction of alleged environmental clean-up costs evidenced at condemnation proceedings deny Illinois property owners the rights and defenses afforded other potentially responsible parties under the Illinois Environmental Protection Act."

IDOT thereafter filed a timely application for leave to appeal. We granted IDOT's ...


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