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Huntley Fire Proptection District v. Huntley Development Limited Partnership

April 09, 2003

HUNTLEY FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT PLAINTIFF AND COUNTERDEFENDANT- APPELLEE AND CROSS-APPELLANT,
v.
HUNTLEY DEVELOPMENT LIMITED PARTNERSHIP, DEFENDANT AND COUNTERPLAINTIFF- APPELLANT AND CROSS-APPELLEE.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County. No. 00-MR-257 Honorable Patrick J. Dixon, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice McLAREN

UNPUBLISHED

Defendant and counterplaintiff, Huntley Development Limited Partnership (HDLP), appeals from the order of the trial court allowing plaintiff and counterdefendant, Huntley Fire Protection District (District), to retain possession of the parcel of property at 12605 Route 47 in Huntley, Illinois. The District cross-appeals from the portion of the same order that prohibits the District from unrestricted sale of the property. We affirm the court's order in both appeals.

On March 31, 1998, HDLP and the District entered into an agreement whereby HDLP agreed to donate the parcel of land located at 12605 Route 47 to the District, which then agreed to use the property "only for fire station purposes and uses necessarily incident thereto." The parties also contemporaneously entered into an assignment and assumption of a lease whereby the District assumed responsibility for the lease of a house located on the property. A quitclaim deed transferring title of the property to the District and a copy of the March 31 agreement were recorded simultaneously on December 17, 1998.

The District hired architects to study the feasibility of using the property for a fire station. The existence of an easement in favor of HDLP on the property made the building of a fire station infeasible. In June 1999, HDLP learned that the District desired to sell or trade the property. HDLP notified the District of its objection to any sale or trade of the property and declined to amend the agreement to allow, in addition to fire station uses and those necessarily incident to them, "other uses which the Huntley Fire Protection District deems necessary to promote the Huntley Fire Protection District."

On June 7, 2000, the District filed a complaint for declaratory judgment, requesting the court to:

"A. Determine whether the sale or trade of the property by the District and the use of the proceeds or consideration from the sale or trade by the District to purchase or exchange property and/or construct a fire station is a use 'necessarily incident thereto' under the terms of the agreement; and

B. Determine whether the restrictive covenant can be enforced against the District or any other purchaser of the property."

HDLP filed a counterclaim, seeking a declaration that, since the District alleged that the property was not suitable for purposes of a fire station, the District must deed the property back to HDLP. After a bench trial, which included the testimony of two witnesses and a joint stipulated statement of undisputed facts, the court declared that the use of the subject property was "restricted to fire station purposes and uses necessarily incident thereto." The court further declared that, while construction of a fire station was not required by the agreement, "unrestricted sale of the property is not permitted thereunder." This appeal and cross-appeal followed.

We will first address the District's motion to strike exhibit A of HDLP's reply brief. Exhibit A included copies of a District resolution, a vacant land sales contract, and a warranty deed, none of which were contained in the record. Attachments to briefs that are not contained in the record are not properly before a reviewing court and cannot be used to supplement the record. Carroll v. Faust, 311 Ill. App. 3d 679, 683 (2000). As the documents contained in the exhibit are not part of the record, we grant the District's motion to strike.

HDLP first contends that the trial court erred in not ordering the District to reconvey the property. The construction of a contract and the determination of the rights and obligations of the parties pursuant to the contract are questions of law. Commonwealth Edison Co. v. Illinois Commerce Comm'n, 332 Ill. App. 3d 1038, 1051 (2002).

The trial court concluded that the agreement "unambiguously" stated that the property was to be used only for fire station purposes and uses incident thereto and that this was an enforceable restriction on the use of the property. In addition, neither the agreement nor the deed contained any language providing for a reverter. HDLP does not argue that this construction of the agreement and the deed is wrong as a matter of law. Instead, HDLP argues that, even in the absence of language regarding reversion of the property, the court should have ordered the reconveyance of the property to HDLP. We disagree.

HDLP relies on Trustees of Schools Town 16 N., R. 11 W., in Morgan County v. Braner, 71 Ill. 546 (1874), for its argument. In Braner, property was conveyed to the trustees of the school district. Although the actual language of the conveyance is not quoted, we are told that the deed specified that the property was to be used "for school purposes." Braner, 71 Ill. at 546. The deed did not provide that the property would revert to the original owner if the land was used for any purpose other than a "legitimate school purpose." Braner, 71 Ill. at 547. The schoolhouse that was located on the property was eventually moved, and the trustees advertised the property for sale. The conveyor of the property brought suit, requesting that the sale be enjoined and the property be reconveyed to him. The trustees failed to file an answer after their demurrer was overruled, and the trial court, taking the bill as confessed, granted the relief sought by the plaintiff. Braner, 71 Ill. at 547.

Our supreme court reversed. According to the court, the deed allowed for many uses of the property under the restriction of school purposes, including rental of the property and subsequent usage of the rental proceeds for school purposes. However, sale of the property, with subsequent usage of the funds for school purposes, was not allowable, as use of the property would then be "perverted" to another use. Braner, 71 Ill. at ...


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