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Schillerstrom Homes, Inc. v. City of Naperville

December 20, 2001

SCHILLERSTROM HOMES, INC., APPELLANT,
v.
THE CITY OF NAPERVILLE, APPELLEE.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Fitzgerald.

UNPUBLISHED

Docket No. 90850-Agenda 32-September 2001.

The plaintiff, Schillerstrom Homes, Inc., a suburban real estate development company, filed a complaint against the defendant, the City of Naperville, alleging that the City willfully failed to approve the plaintiff's final subdivision plat within a 60-day period as required by section 11-12-8 of the Illinois Municipal Code. See 65 ILCS 5/11-12-8 (West 1998). The plaintiff sought summary judgment and damages as provided by section 11-12-8, as well as a writ of mandamus, directing the City to approve and record the plat. The City filed a motion to dismiss the plaintiff's complaint. The Du Page County circuit court granted partial summary judgment to the plaintiff, and the appellate court reversed. No. 2-99-1258 (unpublished order under Supreme Court Rule 23).

The central issue in this case is whether a state statute which provides for a damage remedy is superseded by a similar home rule ordinance which does not provide any remedy. We reverse the appellate court, affirm the circuit court, and remand for further proceedings.

BACKGROUND

In 1997, the plaintiff purchased a piece of residential property in the City of Naperville. The plaintiff planned to raze a house on the property, subdivide the property into two lots, and construct a new house on each lot. Between January 1997 and May 1999, the plaintiff met with City officials and took various steps toward obtaining approval of its plat. The plaintiff submitted its final subdivision plat and supporting documents to City planners, and a month later, the planners recommended that the city council approve the plat. On June 15, 1999, the city council considered and rejected the plat, then recessed its meeting. After the plaintiff's representatives left the meeting, the city council reconvened to reconsider the plaintiff's plat. The city council voted to table reconsideration of the plat until its July 20, 1999, meeting. On July 20, the city council voted again to table reconsideration of the plat until its August 17, 1999, meeting. On August 9, 1999, the plaintiff notified the City that it would file suit if the City failed to act on the plat within five days. The City did nothing, and on August 17, 1999, the plaintiff filed a three-count complaint against the City. *fn1

In its complaint, the plaintiff described its efforts to obtain plat approval, as well as delays in the approval process attributable to the City. The plaintiff's first count sought a "judgment of mandamus" directing the city council to approve and record the plat. The plaintiff's second count sought summary judgment under section 11-12-8 of the Illinois Municipal Code (65 ILCS 5/11-12-8 (West 1998)), and its third count sought damages under section 11-12-8 for the City's purportedly wilful failure to approve the plat. In its third count, the plaintiff alleged that the City adopted Ordinance 99-112 on July 6, 1999, which amended its municipal code to establish minimum lot sizes larger than those proposed by the plaintiff's plat.

The City filed a motion to dismiss. The City asserted that the plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because the 60-day period for approval had not run because the plaintiff failed to submit a "requested site plan" for the plat. The City also asserted that the plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because the City took action on the plat at its August 17, 1999, meeting. The unapproved minutes of this meeting, attached to the City's motion to dismiss, show that the City denied plat approval "because the proposal does not meet the criteria of the Comprehensive Plan to limit single-family density to 2.5 units per acre, because the petitioner did not provided [sic] information on the proposed homes which might have added validity to the petition, and because the subdivision did not meet the criteria of Ordinance 99-112." The City finally asserted that counts II and III of the plaintiff's complaint should be dismissed because section 7-2-5:6 of the Naperville Municipal Code, a valid exercise of the City's home rule powers, preempts section 11-12-8 of the Illinois Municipal Code.

In a written order, the trial court denied the City's motion. The trial court specifically found:

"A) Plaintiff provided Defendant with all Required Documents pursuant to Naperville Ordinances as of June 10, 1999 and that Documents requested by Naperville after June 10, 1999 were not required under the Applicable Zoning Ordinances.

B) That Plaintiff provided Defendant with Proper Five (5) day Notice Pursuant to Applicable State Statutes and that Naperville Failed to Act upon the Subdivision Application prior to the expiration of the Five (5) day Period.

C) That Plaintiff Filed Suit in this Cause at or about 12:12pm on August 17, 1999 and by so doing divested Naperville of the Jurisdiction to rule on the Subdivision Application and therefore the City of Naperville's Denial of the Subdivision Application on the evening of August 17, 1999 Is a Nullity because under the terms of the State Statute the City lost Jurisdiction."

On October 6, 1999, the trial court heard the plaintiff's motion for summary judgment. The court again found that as of June 10, 1999, the plaintiff had supplied the City with all documents in support of the plat which were required by municipal ordinances. The court also found that City authorities failed to act upon the plat within 60 days and that the plaintiff gave five days' written notice to the City before filing suit. The court granted summary judgment to the plaintiff on the 60-day and five-day requirements, reserved ruling on the issues of willfulness and damages, and ordered the Du Page County recorder to record the plaintiff's plat. The court included Rule 304(a) language in its order, and the City appealed.

The appellate court held that the trial court erred in granting summary judgment to the plaintiff under section 11-12-8 of the Illinois Municipal Code. The appellate court stated that the General Assembly, in section 11-12-8, expressed no intention ...


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