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City of Granite City v. House of Prayers

August 20, 2002


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Madison County. No. 99-MR-296 Honorable Ellar Duff, Judge, presiding.

Justices: Honorable Melissa A. Chapman, J. Honorable Thomas M. Welch, J., and Honorable Terrence J. Hopkins, J., Concur

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Melissa Chapman

This is an appeal from an order of the circuit court to demolish property owned by the defendant. The issues for review are (1) whether the circuit court erred in ordering the demolition of the property owned by the defendant, (2) whether the court erred in denying the defendant's motion for substitution of judge, (3) whether the court erred in denying the defendant's motion to modify and extend time, and (4) whether the court erred in ordering the defendant to post a bond and produce certain documents and information to the plaintiff. We affirm.


House of Prayers, Inc. (defendant), is a nonprofit corporation incorporated in the State of Illinois. In 1997, defendant purchased a parcel of property located at 2161 State Street, Granite City, Illinois, for $14,000. The property included a wood-frame building that had been used as a church. The property was in need of repair at the time of the purchase, but defendant eventually hoped to once again use the building as a church. However, for a number of years, including the past four years of defendant's ownership, the building remained vacant and occupied on occasion by vagrants and vandals.

In April 1999, the Building and Zoning Department (Department) of Granite City (plaintiff) inspected defendant's property in response to numerous complaints received concerning the condition of the building. From this inspection, the Department determined that the building was in such a state of disrepair that the cost of repair was greater than the value of the building. Accordingly, the Department performed a title search on the property to identify those parties with an interest in the property. On April 14, 1999, notices were delivered to all interested parties that the repair or demolition of the building was sought. On March 23, 1999, plaintiff's city council passed a resolution submitted by the administrator of the Department finding that the building was dangerous, was unsafe, and should be demolished.

On June 19, 1999, plaintiff filed a complaint pursuant to section 11-31-1 of the Illinois Municipal Code (the Code) (65 ILCS 5/11-31-1 (West 2000)), seeking to demolish or repair the property. On August 5, 1999, counsel for defendant entered an appearance and a general denial of the allegations in plaintiff's complaint. At a pretrial conference on April 24, 2000, the circuit court ordered defendant, within 60 days, to obtain a complete construction estimate, including remodeling plans, from a State-certified architect, that would bring the structure up to city building codes and that would make the building handicapped-accessible. The court's order reset the matter for July 3, 2000. On May 23, 2000, defendant filed several motions, including the following: (1) a motion to continue the July 3, 2000, status conference, (2) a motion to revise the court's April 24, 2000, order, allowing a certified engineer to perform the estimate and striking the handicapped-accessible language in the court's order as irrelevant, and (3) a motion requesting that the court accept an attached engineer's proposal to repair the property. The court granted defendant's motion to continue and reset the remaining motions for a hearing on August 14, 2000.

At the August 14, 2000, hearing, the court allowed defendant to use a certified professional, licensed in the State, to provide the construction and remodeling estimates, but it refused to strike the handicapped-accessible language from its April 24, 2000, order. The court also gave defendant an additional 60 days to comply with its April 24, 2000, order. On October 30, 2000, the matter was again called for a status hearing, at which time defendant moved to extend the deadline for complying with the court's April 24, 2000, and August 14, 2000, orders.

Defendant's motion was granted and the court gave defendant an additional 30 days to comply. On December 4, 2000, the cause was continued by agreement of the parties to December 18, 2000. On December 18, 2000, the court held another status conference, at which it determined that defendant was not in full compliance with the court's prior orders. Defendant was granted an additional 30 days to comply and the matter was reset for January 29, 2001. However, on January 18, 2001, defendant again moved to continue the matter. On January 24, 2001, the court again granted defendant's motion to continue, and the matter was reset for February 26, 2001. On February 26, 2001, the court found that defendant had again failed to comply. The court ordered defendant to post a $50,000 bond and set out in detail the information that defendant was required to provide to fully comply with the court's prior orders. The court ordered defendant to provide the information to plaintiff by 5 p.m. on February 28, 2001.

On March 2, 2001, defendant filed a motion to modify the court's February 26, 2001, order and to extend the time in which it could comply. Defendant sought an additional 10 business days to comply with the court's February 26, 2001, order, alleging that it was burdensome, unreasonable, and prejudicial. Defendant further complained that its architect had indicated that he was unable to comply with the court's order in the time allotted. Defendant alleged that the amount and timing of the bond required by the court was overly burdensome, and it sought to have the order stricken with regard to the bond, to have the amount reduced, and to have the court allow a surety bond in the place of a cash bond.

On March 5, 2001, a hearing was held on defendant's motion to extend and modify the court's February 26, 2001, order. Immediately prior to the March 5, 2001, hearing, defendant filed a motion for substitution of judge. After hearing arguments from the parties, the court denied defendant's motion to substitute and its motion for an extension of time. In denying defendant's motion to substitute, the court characterized the motion as untimely. The matter was given a final setting of March 15, 2001. On March 15, 2001, the matter was continued on plaintiff's motion and reset for March 29, 2001.

On March 29, 2001, the petition for repair or demolition was tried. Glen Hollis, plaintiff's building and zoning administrator, testified that he first inspected the building in approximately April of 1999 in response to numerous complaints. Mr. Hollis identified several unsafe and dangerous aspects of the building. Mr. Hollis testified that upon his inspection he found that the building had been leaking and had a great deal of moisture in it, that the building was filled with trash and debris, that the floor had holes in it and was caving in, that the roof was sagging due to the removal of supports and broken rafters, and that the electrical system in the building was shot and not up to code. Mr. Hollis testified that he had worked in the construction industry for approximately 50 years, and he estimated that the cost to repair the roof was $25,000, the cost to repair the floor was $10,000 to $12,000, the cost of rewiring was $25,000, and the cost to bring the plumbing up to code was $18,000 to $20,000. Mr. Hollis noted that to use the building as a church would additionally require it to be handicapped-accessible. Mr. Hollis stated that he believed that it would be cheaper to tear down the building to its foundation and reconstruct it rather than to try to repair it.

John Apperson, a building inspector for plaintiff, also inspected the building and testified that the building was vacant and in a state of disrepair. Mr. Apperson testified that from the inside of the building, he could see outside through the roof and that from the basement, he could see up into the second level. Mr. Apperson testified that the overall condition of the building, and particularly the roof and floor, was unsafe. He also noted that the large beam in the center of the building and the trusses were cracked and that the roof was swayed in the middle and coming down. Mr. Apperson stated that children and adults had played in and occupied the building on occasion.

Danny Dawson, from whom defendant sought bids to perform repairs on the building, testified that he has been a licensed general contractor for the past six years. Mr. Dawson stated that he inspected the building on four different occasions. He believed that water damage was the cause of the problems to the roof and floors. He acknowledged that some of the trusses were broken and rotting due to water damage. Mr. Dawson testified that he submitted bids to defendant for $22,500 to repair ...

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