Appeal from the Circuit Court for the 13th Judicial Circuit La Salle County, Illinois No. 95 ED 2, 97 ED 1 Honorable James Lanuti, Judge Presiding
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Homer
IN THE COURT OF APPEALS OF THE STATE OF ILLINOIS
JUSTICE HOMER delivered the opinion of the court:
On remand from this court, the trial court determined that a condemned easement fell within the boundaries of a tax increment financing district created by the city of Marseilles. Thus, the trial court reconfirmed that it had subject-matter jurisdiction to approve a consent judgment which resolved the parties' dispute over the easement. After our careful review, we affirm.
The City of Marseilles (city) adopted an ordinance creating a real property tax increment financing district (TIF district) and an attendant redevelopment plan pursuant to the Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act (Act) (65 ILCS 5/11--74.4--1 et seq. (West 1994)). Through powers of eminent domain conferred by the Act, the city brought a condemnation suit against Radke to acquire an easement across a portion of his property.
The property in question is a 9-acre rectangular parcel located in an industrial area and is situated between the CSX railroad tracks to the north and the Illinois and Michigan Canal (I & M Canal) property to the south. The city wanted to construct a railroad spur using a 70- foot-wide strip which curved across the eastern portion of the parcel.
After Radke filed a motion to traverse and dismiss the condemnation action, the parties agreed to a consent judgment that required Radke to convey the subject easement and another railroad easement to the city. In return, the city paid Radke $30,000 and agreed to make a good faith effort to assist Radke in obtaining better access to his property.
Thereafter, Radke filed a motion to vacate the consent judgment, maintaining, inter alia, that the city lacked authority to acquire the easement by condemnation because he had since discovered that the easement was not located within the legal description of TIF district boundaries. Radke concluded, therefore, that the trial court lacked subject-matter jurisdiction to approve the consent judgment.
After the trial court denied Radke's motion, he appealed to this court.
On review, we determined:
"Under the TIF Act, the city can only bring an eminent domain action against property located within the TIF district. 65 ILCS 5/11--74.4--4(c) [(West 1994)]. Therefore, the location of the condemned easement within the TIF district was a statutory prerequisite to the trial court's exercise of subject-matter jurisdiction. If the condemned easement was outside the TIF district, the trial court had no jurisdiction to enter any order, even a consent judgment, and it should have dismissed the complaint. As subject-matter jurisdiction can be raised at any time in the proceeding, the trial court should have conducted an evidentiary hearing on this issue, even in response to Radke's motion to vacate the consent judgment." City of Marseilles v. Radke, 287 Ill. App. 3d 757, 762-63, 679 N.E.2d 125, 129 (1997).
Because there was no evidence in the record upon which the trial court could have based its determination that the condemned easement was within the TIF district boundaries, we remanded the cause for the purpose of conducting an evidentiary hearing so the trial court could properly make that determination.
At the hearing, both parties presented the testimony of experts on how to interpret the boundaries of the TIF district and the condemned easement. Their testimony revealed the crux of the problem in this case --the use of the phrases "I & M Canal" and "I ...