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Hager v. City Of West Peoria

May 17, 1996




Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 94 C 1513 Joe B. McDade, Judge.

Before BAUER, EASTERBROOK, and MANION, Circuit Judges.

MANION, Circuit Judge.


DECIDED MAY 17, 1996

Two businesses located just outside West Peoria, Illinois can access their properties only from a public road that lies within the city's limits. West Peoria enacted municipal ordinances regulating truck traffic on that road. Because deliveries by large trucks are integral to these businesses, they challenge the ordinances, alleging among other things that the ordinances effect takings of their properties and violate their constitutional right to equal protection. The district court properly dismissed the takings claims as prematurely filed in federal court. The plaintiffs have not pleaded a viable theory of recovery for violation of the Equal Protection Clause. Accordingly, we affirm.


Plaintiff Hager operates a tire store and plaintiff Baker a landfill business, both of which are located off a private driveway at the end of West Rohmann Avenue in Peoria County, Illinois. The only access to their properties from any public road is through this private driveway. West Rohmann Avenue lies within the city limits of West Peoria, Illinois, which was incorporated in November 1993. Plaintiffs' properties are contiguous with but outside the city limits. Large trucks approach their businesses daily from West Peoria via West Rohmann Avenue and the private driveway. Many of the companies and individuals that do business with plaintiffs use these large trucks for deliveries and pick-ups.

In 1994 the West Peoria city council determined that heavy trucks had become a burden on the city's streets. The city council specifically noted that use of the streets by heavy trucks required "constant resurfacing," and that those trucks created safety hazards during certain hours of the day. The council consequently determined it had "a need to restrict weight limits on certain streets."

To address these concerns, the city council enacted Ordinance 94-30, which provided that truck traffic on the last three blocks of West Rohmann Avenue must weigh less than eight tons, although local vehicles under fifteen tons making local deliveries could apply for a permit to exceed that weight limit. Permits cost $12.50 per load for vehicles from eight to twelve tons and $20.00 per load for vehicles from twelve to fifteen tons. The ordinance prohibited vehicles in excess of fifteen tons. The city enforced this ordinance by placing a road weight limit sign on West Rohmann Avenue. The typical truck that serviced the landfill "coincidentally" weighed eight tons empty and over fifteen tons loaded.

Two months later the city council enacted Ordinance 94-31, which imposes weight restrictions for trucks and vehicles traveling on most West Peoria streets, including West Rohmann Avenue. The new ordinance provides that vehicles using city streets which exceed eight tons but not fifteen tons may apply for a permit for a fee of $12.50, and those which exceed fifteen tons but weigh less than twenty-six tons may apply for a permit for a fee of $20.00. Ordinance 94-31 exempts municipal vehicles, vehicles making deliveries to West Peoria residents, and vehicles of businesses performing construction services within the city limits. The city also enacted Ordinance 94-26, which erects a stop sign on Rohmann Avenue at the end of the private driveway leading to plaintiffs' properties. The location of this stop sign makes it difficult to exit plaintiffs' driveway because truck drivers had to stop on an incline.

Hager's and Baker's properties are zoned for commercial and industrial use. Plaintiffs anticipated using them for these purposes, which require access by heavy trucks. Before summer 1994 no road weight limit signs had graced West Rohmann Avenue leading to their properties. Faced with large trucks effectively losing access to their businesses, Hager and Baker filed this suit in federal court against the city and its street department manager challenging the ordinances as violating the U.S. Constitution and Illinois state law.

Hager and Baker complain that the ordinances violate their constitutional right to equal protection because they exempt similarly situated West Peoria businesses from having to obtain truck permits and pay fees. Plaintiffs further claim the ordinances inversely condemn their properties, severely reduce their value, and limit their potential industrial and commercial use without fair compensation. The complaint also contains state law allegations of tortious interference with plaintiffs' delivery contracts with other trucking businesses.

Pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(b)(6), West Peoria moved to dismiss the takings claims as premature considering the remedies available under Illinois law for an alleged taking. West Peoria also sought dismissal of the equal protection claims on two grounds: (1) plaintiffs did not plead membership in a suspect class or deprivation of a fundamental right, and the ordinances are rationally related to legitimate governmental purposes; and (2) the permit fees in the ordinances are taxes insulated from constitutional challenge by the Tax Injunction Act, 28 U.S.C. sec. 1341:

The district courts shall not enjoin, suspend or restrain the assessment, levy or collection of any tax under State law where a plain, speedy and efficient ...

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