The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Thomas
Docket No. 90635-Agenda 30-May 2001.
Section 7-1-46 of the Illinois Municipal Code (the Code) provides for a one-year statute of limitations for actions that "directly or indirectly" contest an annexation. 65 ILCS 5/7-1-46 (West 1998). The plaintiff, Michael C. Langendorf, filed this declaratory judgment action against the defendant, the City of Urbana (the City), challenging the zoning of two parcels of property that were rezoned by the City pursuant to annexation agreements between the City and the owners of those parcels. The plaintiff does not challenge the zoning of his own property. The circuit court of Champaign County granted the City's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's amended complaint, finding that his cause of action was barred because it was filed beyond the limitations period set forth in section 7-1-46 of the Code. The appellate court reversed. No. 4-99-0449 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). We allowed the City's petition for leave to appeal (177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)), and now reverse the judgment of the appellate court and affirm the judgment of the circuit court.
The plaintiff filed his initial complaint on August 14, 1998, more than one year after the annexations and rezoning of the properties in question. The circuit court dismissed that complaint pursuant to the City's motion filed under section 2-615 of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615 (West 1998)).
Thereafter, the plaintiff filed an amended complaint. Count I of the plaintiff's amended complaint concerns the annexation of a parcel of property known as Stone Creek Commons. The parcel adjoins the plaintiff's property on the south side and is owned by Clinton T. Atkins. On February 17, 1997, the City approved an agreement with Atkins for the annexation of Stone Creek Commons, which provided that the northern 25 acres-42% of the tract-would be converted from county to city zoning and rezoned as "B-3 General Business District" and that the southern 35 acres-58% of the tract-would be rezoned as "R-4 Medium Density Multiple-Family Residential District." On July 7, 1998, the City passed an ordinance implementing the zoning. The plaintiff alleged that the rezoning was inconsistent with 1993 amendments to the City's comprehensive plan, which provided that the northwest corner of Stone Creek Commons-approximately 12% of the tract-be used for "commercial purposes," while the remaining portion be used for "residential purposes."
Count II of the plaintiff's complaint challenged the zoning with respect to a tract of land immediately to the north of Stone Creek Commons known as the Meijer Tract. On January 3, 1995, the City entered into a similar annexation agreement with Atkins and the three other owners of the Meijer Tract. The agreement provided for rezoning of the entire Meijer Tract to "B-3 General Business District." On June 19, 1995, the City passed an ordinance rezoning the property to "B-3 General Business District." The plaintiff's amended complaint further alleged that the rezoning was inconsistent with 1993 amendments to the City's comprehensive plan that designated the western half of the tract for "commercial purposes" and the eastern half for "residential purposes."
Both counts of the amended complaint alleged that (1) the rezoning of the properties would materially impair the fair market value of the real estate owned by the plaintiff and others similarly situated, (2) the application of the zoning ordinance to allow a movie theater and a Meijer superstore would adversely affect the property values of the plaintiff and others similarly situated, and (3) the application of the zoning ordinance would be contrary to the stated goals, objectives and principles of the 1993 amendments to the City's comprehensive plan.
The trial court granted the City's motion to dismiss the plaintiff's amended complaint based on the statute of limitations contained in section 7-1-46 of the Code. That section provides in relevant part:
"Neither the People of the State of Illinois nor any person, firm or corporation, public or private, nor any association of persons shall commence an action contesting either directly or indirectly the annexation of any territory to a municipality unless initiated within one year after the date such annexation becomes final ***." (Emphasis added.) 65 ILCS 5/7-1-46 (West 1998).
The trial court found that the plaintiff's amended complaint and the exhibits attached thereto showed that the zoning provisions contained in the annexation agreements were an integral part of the agreements and were accomplished by the City on July 7, 1997. The court noted that while the plaintiff may be challenging ostensibly only the City's zoning actions, an attack on the zoning actions is, in reality, an attack on the annexation agreements themselves. This is because the zoning actions were an integral part of the annexation agreements, which the City would fail to fulfill without effecting the rezoning. Therefore, the court concluded, the plaintiff's cause of action was governed by the one-year statute of limitations in section 7-1-46 applicable to challenges mounted against annexation agreements. In reaching its conclusion, the trial court followed the decisions of the Appellate Court, Second District, in Echo Lake Concerned Citizens Homeowners Ass'n, Inc. v. Village of Lake Zurich, 68 Ill. App. 3d 219 (1979), and People ex rel. Foreman v. Village of Round Lake Park, 171 Ill. App. 3d 443 (1988), which are directly on point.
On appeal, the appellate court reversed, and declined to follow the rationale of Echo Lake and Foreman. No. 4-99-0449 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23). Instead, the appellate court stated that "[a]nnexation and zoning are, in the abstract, distinct concepts." The court further stated that "[e]ven where the two are undertaken as part of a single integrated agreement, challenge to the one does not necessarily entail challenge to the other." The appellate court also questioned whether the legislature could properly enact a period of limitations for a constitutionally grounded cause of action such as a zoning challenge.
On appeal to this court, the City argues that the appellate court erred in concluding, in essence, that the plaintiff could successfully attack the zoning of the annexed properties without at least indirectly contesting the annexations. The City contends that, in viewing the full statutory scheme in relation to the annexation agreements in this case, it is apparent that the zoning of the parcels cannot be separated from their annexation. Thus, an attack of the zoning is an indirect attack on ...