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Philip v. Daley

June 2, 2003


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Du Page County. No. 02-MR-528 Honorable Hollis L. Webster, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Grometer


Plaintiffs, James "Pate" Philip, Henry Hyde, and the Village of Bensenville, initiated an action in the circuit court of Du Page County against defendants, the City of Chicago and Richard M. Daley. The complaint sought, inter alia, a declaration that an attempt by defendants to acquire property in anticipation of the expansion of O'Hare International Airport without first obtaining approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) was beyond the authority of the city. Plaintiffs also sought a preliminary injunction prohibiting defendants from proceeding with land acquisition, and the trial court granted this request. Defendants now appeal, and we affirm.

Before proceeding further, we must address two matters. First, defendants have filed what they term an "Emergency Motion for Summary Reversal." We ordered the motion taken with the case. After the parties completed their briefing of this appeal, the supreme court delivered its decision in People ex rel. Birkett v. City of Chicago, 202 Ill. 2d 36 (2002) (Birkett), and it is upon this opinion that defendants base their motion. As we explain below, we find Birkett distinguishable. Thus, we deny defendants' motion. Second, we observe that, between them, the parties have combined to amass a total of 70 footnotes in their briefs. Supreme Court Rule 341(a) states, "Footnotes, if any, shall be used sparingly." Official Reports Advance Sheet No. 21 (October 17, 2001), R. 341(a) (eff. October 1, 2001). The parties are advised to abide by this rule in the future.


On June 11, 2002, Chicago announced a plan seeking to acquire 433 acres adjacent to O'Hare for runway expansion. Chicago stated that it would acquire the property either through voluntary transactions with property owners or through the power of eminent domain. Within the area of Bensenville that Chicago wants to acquire lie 533 homes and 55 businesses. The area also contains a police station and a fire station. The housing in this area is affordable for people of low and moderate income. Further, the acquisition would displace over 400 students and possibly cause an elementary school to close.

Chicago did not seek IDOT's approval before commencing its land-acquisition program. The central issue involved in this appeal is whether section 47 of the Illinois Aeronautics Act (Aeronautics Act) (620 ILCS 5/47 (West 2000)) requires a party seeking to acquire land for airport development to obtain a "certificate of approval" prior to proceeding. Section 47 states, in part, that "[i]t shall be unlawful for any municipality or other political subdivision *** to make any alteration or extension of an existing airport *** for which a certificate of approval has not been issued by [IDOT]." 620 ILCS 5/47 (West 2000). IDOT has promulgated a regulation explaining this language. The regulation provides:

"The phrase, 'alteration or extension', shall include any of the following:

a) Any material change in the length, width or direction of runways or landing strips;

b) Construction or installation of any building or other structure on the airport property which would extend above an approach slope or a transition slope or turning zone;

c) Planting or permitting to grow any growth or placement of any other obstacle on the airport property which would extend above an approach slope or a transition slope or turning zone." 92 Ill. Adm. Code §14.640 (1998).

This regulation was enacted by IDOT in 1985.

Plaintiffs moved for a preliminary injunction, and a hearing was held on the matter. James Bildilli, the chief engineer of the Bureau of Airport Engineering for IDOT's Division of Aeronautics, testified, and an affidavit of his was submitted as well. Bildilli addressed IDOT's interpretation of section 47 of the Aeronautics Act. He explained that IDOT interprets "make any alteration or extension" (620 ILCS 5/47 (West 2000)) to mean "construct and put into service." He further stated that it has been IDOT's practice to wait until after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has completed its approval process before taking action. This practice, according to Bildilli, allows IDOT to avoid unnecessary, costly duplication of functions properly performed by the FAA. See 620 ILCS 5/25 (West 2000). Further, Bildilli testified that IDOT does not require certification prior to land acquisition, even where the land is to be used for a runway. He added that if Chicago had sought a certificate prior to land acquisition, IDOT would have considered the application premature.

The trial court granted plaintiffs' request for a preliminary injunction. The trial court first observed that it is uncontested that Chicago intends at some point "to make" an alteration or extension of O'Hare; therefore, it must seek IDOT approval eventually. The court found that land acquisition is part of the process of "making" a runway. Thus, the court reasoned that, as part of the process of making a runway, certification is required prior to land acquisition. The court also found that deference to IDOT's interpretation was inappropriate because the term "to make" (620 ILCS 5/47 (West 2000)), read in light of other pertinent portions of the Aeronautics Act, is not ambiguous. Accordingly, the trial court enjoined Chicago from proceeding with land acquisition until it obtained approval from IDOT.


Defendants assert that the trial court should not have issued a preliminary injunction, arguing that the Aeronautics Act (620 ILCS 5/1 et seq. (West 2000)) does not require them to seek approval from IDOT prior to acquiring land and that, in the alternative, federal law preempts the permit process set forth in the Aeronautics Act (see 620 ILCS 5/47 (West 2000)). We disagree with both contentions. In reviewing the propriety of a preliminary injunction, we normally apply the abuse-of-discretion standard. People ex rel. Klaeren v. Village of Lisle, 202 Ill. 2d 164, 177 (2002). However, the issues involved in this appeal turn largely on the construction of various statutes; therefore, we will conduct de novo review. People v. Studio 20, Inc., 314 Ill. App. 3d 1000, 1004 (2000). Finally, as will become clear, our analysis differs somewhat from that of the trial court. It is well settled that we review the correctness of the result reached by the trial court, not its reasoning (Department of Mental Health & Developmental Disabilities v. Illinois Civil Service Comm'n, 103 Ill. App. 3d 954, 957 (1982)), and may affirm on any basis apparent in the record (Witters v. Hicks, 335 Ill. App. 3d 435, 445 (2002)).

A. The Illinois Aeronautics Act

Defendants first contend that the Aeronautics Act does not require them to seek approval from IDOT before beginning its land-acquisition program. Defendants' reasoning is relatively straightforward. First, they note that both this court and the supreme court have held that section 47 of the Aeronautics Act is ambiguous regarding how significant an alteration or extension of an airport must be before certification is necessary. Birkett, 202 Ill. 2d at 47; People ex rel. Birkett v. City of Chicago, 329 Ill. App. 3d 477, 484 (2002). Second, they rely on the well-established principle that when a statute is ambiguous, courts generally defer to interpretations by an agency charged with administering the statute. Automatic Data Processing, Inc. v. Department of Revenue, 313 Ill. App. 3d 433, 444 (2000); Smith v. Town of Normal, 238 Ill. App. 3d 944, 949-50 (1992). Third, they note that IDOT interprets section 47 to require a certificate only for acts that impact on things such as ...

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