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City of Decatur v. Page

May 20, 2003

THE CITY OF DECATUR, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
TROY A. PAGE, DEFENDANT-APPELLANT.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County No. 010V919 Honorable Katherine M. McCarthy, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough

PUBLISHED

In August 2001, a police officer for the City of Decatur, Illinois (City), stopped a truck driven by defendant, Troy A. Page, and ticketed Page for an overweight vehicle violation under the City's municipal code, chapter 34.1 entitled "Overweight And/Or Overdimension Vehicles" (Ordinance) (Decatur Municipal Code §34.1 (eff. October 16, 2000)). The Ordinance used the same weight restrictions as the Illinois Vehicle Code (Vehicle Code) (625 ILCS 5/15-111(f) (West 2000)), but the City failed to post signs alerting motorists of the weight restrictions. In March 2002, the City moved for summary judgment on the issue of liability.

In May 2002, the trial court (1) granted the City's motion for summary judgment as to liability, (2) found Page guilty of operating an overweight vehicle in violation of the Ordinance, (3) ruled the City had no obligation to erect signs warning motorists of a local ordinance restricting vehicular road weight since the restriction was identical to the restriction imposed on the road by Illinois statute, and (4) fined Page $7,815 plus costs.

On appeal, Page argues (1) the Ordinance is unenforceable since no signs were posted giving reasonable notice of it; and (2) the trial court erred in imposing a fine on Page because neither party requested it to do so and a genuine issue of material fact remained as to the weight of Page's vehicle. We reverse.

I. BACKGROUND

The record on appeal consists of the traffic citation issued to Page, the pleadings, and an agreed statement of facts submitted by the parties pursuant to Supreme Court Rule 323(d) (166 Ill. 2d R. 323(d)).

In October 2000, the City enacted the Ordinance making it unlawful for any person to drive upon any street or highway located within the City when the weight of the vehicle being driven exceeded the weight limitations set forth in section 15-111(f) of the Vehicle Code. 625 ILCS 5/15-111(f) (West 2000). The weight limitations established by the Ordinance were the same as those established by the Vehicle Code.

In August 2001, Page was driving a 1992 International semi-tractor with a trailer on Pershing Road (also known as Illinois Route 121) located within the City. The City had no signs posted along Pershing Road giving notice of the Ordinance or its terms and provisions. A Decatur police officer pulled Page over and issued him a citation from the City for (1) unlawfully operating the 1992 International semi-tractor and trailer on Illinois Route 121, (2) violating the weight restrictions contained in the Ordinance, and (3) failing to have an oversize vehicle permit from the City. Page was given a document titled "ticket and complaint," as well as a notice to appear.

In October 2001, Page entered an appearance and pleaded not guilty to the violations alleged. Page claimed the Ordinance was invalid and unenforceable. In December 2001, Page filed a counterclaim for declaratory judgment requesting that the trial court determine the rights of each party relating to the validity and enforceability of the Ordinance. In January 2002, the City filed an answer to Page's counterclaim for declaratory judgment and denied the invalidity or unenforceability of the Ordinance.

On February 27, 2002, the City filed a motion for leave to file an amended complaint. The same day, the City filed an amended complaint specifying Page operated an overweight vehicle on 100 W. Pershing Road and on the 2200-2600 blocks of East Pershing Road. The City sent Page notice of a hearing on its motion for leave to amend the complaint, and an affidavit of service is included in the record. Page filed no answer to the City's amended complaint, and the record contains no docket entry or transcript verifying whether a hearing on the amended complaint was held.

On March 20, 2002, the City filed a motion for summary judgment as to liability. The City alleged the only dispute between the parties was whether the City was required under Illinois law to erect signs warning motorists of the Ordinance. The City claimed it had no duty to erect such signs. On May 7, 2002, Page filed his response to the City's motion and filed a motion for summary judgment as to liability on his counterclaim for declaratory judgment. Page alleged the Ordinance was unenforceable because no signs giving reasonable notice of the Ordinance were posted. Page also alleged the weight limitations imposed by the Ordinance were invalid. Page agreed with the City that the questions presented could be determined as a matter of law.

On May 17, 2002, the trial court ruled on the cross-motions for summary judgment. The court's docket entry order was not part of the common-law record, but the parties incorporated the docket entry into their agreed statement of facts. In the docket entry, the court determined that the only issue was whether the City was required to erect signs giving notice of the Ordinance. The court granted the City's motion for summary judgment as to liability and determined section 15-316 of the Vehicle Code required a governmental entity to post signs on the roadway only if it restricted the use of the roadway to a weight less than that allowable under the Vehicle Code. 625 ILCS 5/15-316 (West 2000). The court reasoned that since (1) section 11-208(a)(7) of the Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-208(a)(7) (West 2000)) allowed the City to regulate the use of highways under its jurisdiction, and (2) the City's ordinance imposed a weight limitation identical to the limitation set forth in the Vehicle Code, the City had no obligation to erect signs. The court found Page violated the Ordinance and fined him as stated.

In late May 2002, Page filed a motion to reconsider challenging (1) the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of the City and (2) its imposition of a fine without first demanding strict proof of the amount by which Page's vehicle was overweight. In September 2002, the trial court heard arguments on Page's motion to reconsider and denied Page's motion to reconsider. The court's docket entry notes that Page requested the court to reconsider its May 2002 decision based on section 11-207 of the Vehicle Code (625 ILCS 5/11-207 (West 2000)). The court noted section 11-207 gives local municipalities the authority to adopt additional traffic regulations not in conflict with the Vehicle Code. The court interpreted the statute and commented, "any additional regulations by a municipality would require the posting of signs." The court determined the ...


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