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People ex rel Birkett v. City of Chicago

April 19, 2002


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 95-CH-0748 Honorable Bonnie M. Wheaton, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN


Plaintiffs, the People of the State of Illinois, Joseph E. Birkett, State's Attorney of Du Page County, County of Du Page, the Village of Bensenville, the City of Elmhurst, and the City of Wood Dale, appeal the trial court's granting of the motion for summary judgment of defendant, the City of Chicago (the City), and the court's denial of plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment and injunction. Plaintiffs-intervenors, Henry J. Hyde and James "Pate" Philip, appeal the trial court's dismissal for lack of standing. We affirm in part, reverse in part, and remand the cause for further proceedings.

The following is a summary of the vast number of documents contained in the record. In 1975 or 1976 the City undertook a "Master Plan Study" to determine the future forecast needs for O'Hare International Airport. In 1993 the City and the airlines undertook a "Master Plan Update," later called the "ALP Update," to develop a 20-year, long-term master plan for O'Hare. In 1993 the City and its advisers concluded that air traffic demand would require a new quad runway system at O'Hare or a third airport. In April 1995, the City directed its public relations firms to "gain widespread support for runway expansion at O'Hare."

In 1996 the City commissioned another long-term plan, eventually called the "Integrated Airport Plan." In 1997 Landrum and Brown, a leading airport consultant firm, presented its long-term global "Hub Feasibility Study" to a representative of the City. The study handled forecasted traffic and recommended a reconfiguration of the current intersecting runway system to a parallel quad runway system, adding two new runways. Other studies also concluded that O'Hare would run out of capacity and would require additional runways by the year 2007. The studies concluded that terminals were sufficient to handle the current traffic and that new terminals would be needed only if new runways were built to accommodate more traffic.

After completing a study of the long-term needs at O'Hare, in 1998 an airline consultant recommended that the City adopt a four-phase "Integrated Airport Plan." The first three phases included terminal and roadway construction and the capital improvement program. The fourth phase included a new quad runway system.

In February 1999, Chicago's Mayor Richard M. Daley announced the "World Gateway Project," including new terminal construction and roadway expansion. The announcement did not contain information about new runways. In March 2000, an airline consultant, Booz-Allen, concluded that O'Hare is currently out of capacity and needs new runways. The City announced that it did not intend to apply for a certificate from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) regarding the "World Gateway Project."

On December 22, 1995, plaintiffs filed a two-count amended complaint against the City. Count I, an action in quo warrantor, sought declaratory and injunctive relief, alleging that, without an IDOT certificate, the City's past and future planned construction at O'Hare was unlawful. Count I alleged that "flights to and from O'Hare Airport create severe noise, air pollution and safety concerns" among the citizens of Bensenville, Elmhurst, and Wood Dale. Count I sought a declaration that the City's actions were without authority and requested an order prohibiting the City from constructing current and proposed development without obtaining an IDOT certificate of approval. Count II sought an injunction and was brought directly under the Illinois Aeronautics Act (Aeronautics Act) (620 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (West 1998)). Count II alleged that the City had in the past continued to undertake piecemeal expansion without seeking the approval of IDOT. Count II sought an order enjoining the City from continuing its current and proposed construction at O'Hare without first obtaining IDOT's approval.

On January 5, 1996, the City filed a motion for transfer of venue. The trial court denied the motion. Subsequently, the City filed a motion to dismiss plaintiffs' complaint, claiming that plaintiffs lacked standing because the Aeronautics Act was not intended to protect the interests of the citizens of Bensenville, Elmhurst, Wood Dale, and unincorporated Du Page County from noise and air pollution caused by O'Hare activity. On August 16, 1996, the trial court denied the City's motion to dismiss, ruling that plaintiffs did have an implied cause of action under the Aeronautics Act.

In December 1996, the trial court granted United States Representative Henry J. Hyde and Illinois State Senator Pate Philip leave to intervene as plaintiffs.

The trial court ordered the City to allow plaintiffs to review documents the City claimed to be privileged and held the City in contempt for the failure to produce documents related to plans and discussions regarding O'Hare construction. On appeal, this court held that the documents were not privileged, but it vacated the part of the contempt order imposing a fine on the City. People ex rel. Birkett v. City of Chicago, 292 Ill. App. 3d 745, 755-56 (1997), aff'd, 184 Ill. 2d 521 (1998). The City completed the document production by late in 1999.

On June 8, 2000, the City filed a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiffs filed a cross-motion for partial summary judgment and a preliminary injunction requesting the court to enjoin the City from the construction of the "World Gateway Project" and capital improvement project.

On September 26, 2000, after hearing argument and reviewing the parties' briefs, the trial court granted summary judgment in the City's favor and denied plaintiffs' motion for partial summary judgment and a preliminary injunction. The trial court found that there was a latent ambiguity in the statute regarding the phrase "alteration or extension of an existing airport." 620 ILCS 5/47 (West 1998). After considering the statute as a whole and IDOT regulation 14.640 (92 Ill. Adm. Code §14.640 (1998)), the trial court concluded that the Act was concerned only with aeronautics safety and that the City did not need to obtain an IDOT certificate of approval for its planned project. The court also found that the Du Page County State's Attorney and the municipal plaintiffs had standing but that Philip and Hyde lacked standing and dismissed them from the action. The court did not rule on federal preemption or home rule issues raised by the City. Plaintiffs filed this timely appeal. The Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce filed an amicus brief.

On appeal, plaintiffs argue that the trial court erred by granting summary judgment in the City's favor.

A court should enter summary judgment if the pleadings, depositions, admissions, and affidavits show that there is no genuine issue of material fact and that the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law. Jones v. Chicago HMO Ltd. of Illinois, 191 Ill. 2d 278, 291 (2000). A triable issue of fact exists where there is a dispute as to a material fact or where, although the facts are not in dispute, reasonable minds might differ in drawing inferences from those facts. Petrovich v. Share Health Plan of Illinois, Inc., 188 Ill. 2d 17, 31 (1999). When evaluating the facts, a court must construe the evidence strictly against the movant and liberally in favor of the nonmoving party. Dowd & Dowd, Ltd. v. Gleason, 181 Ill. 2d 460, 483 (1998). We apply a de novo standard of review to the trial court's decision to grant summary judgment. Jones, 191 Ill. 2d at 291.

Plaintiffs argue in particular that the trial court erred by finding that the City's plans for O'Hare do not require IDOT's approval because the plans do not constitute "any alteration" within ...

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