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Zaruba v. Village of Oak Park

May 08, 1998

JOHN ZARUBA, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF OAK PARK, ILLINOIS, AN ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, LAWRENCE CHRISTMAS, JOHN TROELSTRUP, WILLIAM FILLMORE, SUSAN RAKSTANG, BERNARD ABRAHAM, FRED POSPISIL, AND ALLEN RAPHAEL, THE HISTORICAL PRESERVATION COMMISSION OF THE VILLAGE OF OAK PARK, A COMMISSION ESTABLISHED BY THE TERMS OF THE OAK PARK HISTORICAL PRESERVATION ORDINANCE, DAVID SOKOL, JEFF FOSTER, UWE FREESE, LESLEY GILMORE, GREG JONES, DENNIS LANGLEY, WILLIAM MAHALKO, WILLIAM SALTENBERGER, AND GEORGE VRECHEK, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Zwick, J. Campbell, P.j. and Quinn, J., concur.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Zwick

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County. 95 CH 11965

Honorable Aaron Jaffe, Judge Presiding.

The issue in this case is whether the decision of the defendant, Village of Oak Park (the Village), to deny plaintiff, John Zaruba, a Certificate of Economic Hardship was made against the manifest weight of the evidence. The Certificate is required by a Village ordinance before a house located within an historic architectural district may be demolished. On administrative review, the circuit court reversed the Village. After reviewing the record, we find the Village's decision to deny the Certificate to have been supported by the evidence. We therefore affirm the Village's decision and reverse the circuit court.

The Village's Historic Preservation Ordinance (the Ordinance) became effective on January 1, 1994. The Ordinance prevents the demolition of landmark buildings or contributing architectural resources located within the Village's Frank Lloyd Wright Prairie School of Architecture Historic District (the District). Exceptions are made upon the granting of a Certificate of Appropriateness or Certificate of Economic Hardship.

Plaintiff purchased the property located at 616 N. Kenilworth Avenue, a lot within the District, on March 14, 1995. The property consisted of a 45-foot wide parcel containing an 86-year old single-family house. Plaintiff purchased the property for $227,500.

On June 23, 1995, plaintiff applied for a wrecking permit to demolish the building. At that time he was informed by Village staff that a wrecking permit could not be issued without the Village first issuing either a Certificate of Appropriateness or a Certificate of Economic Hardship.

Plaintiff subsequently applied for a Certificate of Appropriateness on grounds that the building was not a contributing resource to the District. The Historic Preservation Commission (the Commission) held a hearing and concluded that the building was a contributing resource. It therefore denied the plaintiff's request on July 13, 1995. Plaintiff was informed in writing of his right to challenge the decision at public hearing before the Village Board of Trustees, but elected not to pursue this remedy.

On August 1, 1995, plaintiff applied for a Certificate of Economic Hardship. At the hearing before the Commission on September 14, 1995, plaintiff testified that he had lived for the preceding five years at 614 N. Kenilworth. For approximately 40 years prior to plaintiff's purchase of 616 N. Kenilworth, and for a short period thereafter, a man named John Glavin lived in the house at 616 N. Kenilworth. Glavin was in his early 90s at the time of the sale of his house to plaintiff.

Plaintiff testified that he had, over the years, "polite conversations" with Mr. Glavin about whether he would be willing to sell the property. In the fall prior to the hearing, the conversations became serious. Plaintiff offered Glavin $150,000 based upon a professional appraisal plaintiff commissioned showing the property was worth $165,000. Glavin was "somewhat insulted" by the offer and told plaintiff that he had already turned down a $200,000 bid for the property from a woman named Colleen Myra. Plaintiff spoke with Myra and verified her written offer to Glavin. Plaintiff eventually offered Glavin $227,500 for the property, which Glavin accepted.

Plaintiff testified that he was motivated to purchase the property because he wanted to protect his investment in his own home. He stated:

"I wanted to have some sort of control over what happened next door to me and I had the financial means to do so, so I made him an offer of $227,500 motivated by the desire to annex [his] property to mine to prevent somebody from, frankly, from adding a big addition on to the back of 616 and adding a big garage to the back and whatever that might have transpired which would have in a sense blocked my -- blocked my view, filled up the backyard."

Plaintiff stated that he believed combining the two properties would increase the value of his home, but he could not offer an estimate of by how much the properties would be worth if joined together. He presented a detailed architectural drawing showing a proposed extension of his front porch over the existing driveway at 614 N. Kenilworth, as well as a proposed new side-facing garage which he planned to erect on the site where Glavin's house stood. The proposed garage was designed to carefully unify the two lots.

It was established at the hearing that the Glavin house had substantially deteriorated over the course of the 40 years John Glavin had lived there. There were holes in the roof where a family of raccoons had taken up residence. The furnace was seriously damaged and several radiators had been disconnected. Water was leaking into the basement through a missing door and there was exposed wiring both inside and outside the house. Mortar in the chimney had eroded and the chimney was being held together by the supports of a television antennae. Siding on the southeast corner of the house was leaking. The house's foundation required tuckpointing in three or four locations. In addition, the garage was structurally unsound and in need of demolition. Plaintiff testified that when ...


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