Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 14th Judicial Circuit, LaSalle County, Illinois. Nos. 95-ED-2. Honorable Cynthia Raccuglia, Judges, Presiding.
Rehearing Denied May 29, 1997. Released for Publication May 29, 1997.
Present - Honorable Tom M. Lytton, Presiding Justice, Honorable William E. Holdridge, Justice, Honorable Peg Breslin, Justice. Justice Holdridge delivered the Opinion of the Court. Lytton, P.j., and Breslin, J., concurred.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Holdridge
The Honorable Justice HOLDRIDGE delivered the Opinion of the Court:
Defendant, Ross Radke (Radke), appeals from an order of the circuit court of LaSalle County denying his motion to vacate a consent decree judgment entered in an eminent domain action in which the City of Marseilles (City) sought to acquire a railroad easement from Radke. For the reasons stated below, we reverse the order of the circuit court and remand for an evidentiary hearing.
The City adopted ordinances creating a real property tax increment financing district (TIF district) and an attendant redevelopment plan and project pursuant to the Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act (the Act). 65 ILCS 5/11--74.4--1 et seq. (Michie 1994). Pursuant to the authority granted to it under the Act (65 ILCS 5/11--74.4--4), the City brought condemnation proceedings against Radke, seeking to acquire a single railroad easement across his property. The rail easement would be used by the Independent Tube Corporation to provide rail access to a factory it would build within the TIF district.
Radke filed a motion to traverse and dismiss, alleging several grounds, including: (1) the City had failed to pass a proper authorizing ordinance; (2) the property sought to be condemned was not blighted within the meaning of the Act; (3) the condemnation was not for a valid public use; and (4) the City had failed to make a good faith offer for the purchase of the property.
Prior to the hearing on the traverse action, negotiations were held which resulted in an agreement between the parties. A "Consent Judgment" was entered that required Radke to convey the subject easement as well as another railroad easement. The City was ordered to pay Radke $30,000 for both easements, and to make good faith efforts to obtain for Radke better access to his property.
The consent judgment noted, inter alia, that: (1) Radke's property was "located wholly within the boundaries of the redevelopment project area" created by ordinance; (2) the court had jurisdiction of the parties and the subject matter; and (3) the parties had reached a settlement of all issues and ratified their agreement by presenting it to the court for entry as a consent judgment.
Within 30 days of entry of the consent judgment, Radke filed a motion to vacate the judgment. He maintained that after the consent judgment was entered, he discovered that the easement the City had sought through condemnation was not within the legal description of the project redevelopment area contained in the ordinance and notices published pursuant to the Act. The motion to vacate alleged that the City had no authority to acquire the easement by condemnation, and thus the trial court lacked subject matter jurisdiction to enter the consent judgment.
Radke subsequently amended his motion to vacate adding as additional grounds to vacate allegations that the consent order violated public policy and that it was entered into by the parties as the result of a mutual mistake of fact.
At the hearing on Radke's motion to vacate, the attorney for each party indicated to the trial court that they had brought expert witnesses to court to testify as to whether the condemned easement was or was not within the TIF district. Radke's attorney indicated to the court that his expert would testify that the condemned easement was not within the territory encompassed by the legal description given in the public notice required by the Act. The attorney for the City indicated to the court that its expert would testify that the subject easement was within the TIF district "when you look at both the legal description, the metes and bounds description, and the accompanying map, which [was] an exhibit to the same ordinance." The trial court took no testimony from either expert on whether the subject easement was within-the TIF district, nor did either party make an offer of proof for the record on appeal.
Radke argued to the trial court that, because the subject easement was outside the legal boundaries of the TIF district, a statutory prerequisite necessary for the trial court to exercise subject-matter jurisdiction was not present. Thus, the consent judgment was void and should be vacated. The City argued that: (1) the subject easement was within the boundaries of the TIF district, thus any statutory jurisdictional requirements were satisfied; (2) the trial court had subject-matter jurisdiction over the matter virtue of the jurisdiction conferred upon it by the Illinois constitution to hear eminent domain ...