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Raintree Homes, Inc. v. Village of Long Grove

March 18, 2004

RAINTREE HOMES, INC., ET AL., APPELLEES,
v.
THE VILLAGE OF LONG GROVE, APPELLANT.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Fitzgerald

PUBLISHED

Docket No. 95181-Agenda 18-May 2003.

Plaintiffs, Raintree Homes, Inc., and Raintree Builders, Inc., filed a one-count amended complaint against defendant, the Village of Long Grove (the Village), seeking a declaratory judgment as to the validity of a Village ordinance requiring the payment of impact fees to the Village to obtain building permits and a refund of those fees paid by plaintiffs. The circuit court of Lake County dismissed the complaint with prejudice. The appellate court reversed and remanded, holding that the one-year statute of limitations contained in section 8-101 of the Local Governmental and Governmental Employees Tort Immunity Act (the Tort Immunity Act or Act) (745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 2000)) did not apply to the present cause of action. 335 Ill. App. 3d 317. The Village argues for reversal of the appellate court because: (1) the statute of limitation of the Act (745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 2002)) bars all but one of plaintiffs' claims, (2) plaintiffs lack standing to assert the sole claim that is not time-barred, and (3) the appellate court erred in remanding the matter to a different trial judge. For the following reasons, we affirm in part and reverse in part.

BACKGROUND

Plaintiffs filed their initial complaint on March 26, 1998, and their amended complaint on July 14, 2000. The amended complaint alleged that plaintiffs entered into several contracts to build homes in the Village from February 1993 to August 1997. As a condition of these contracts, plaintiffs were required to apply for and obtain building permits from the Village and were required to pay all impact fees for the issuance of the building permits. From June 26, 1996, through February 1998, section 4-1-4(B) of the village code required the payment of impact fees, setting forth that "as a condition of the issuance of a building permit for the construction of a dwelling unit, the building permit applicant shall be required to donate monies to the Village." Long Grove Municipal Code §4-1-4(B) (amended June 25, 1996). The impact fees, which totaled $7,300 for each building permit, were for the benefit of the school district and for the acquisition, maintenance, preservation, and operation of open space in the Village. Long Grove Municipal Code §4-1-4(B) (amended June 25, 1996). Between June 26, 1996, and February 21, 1997, plaintiffs paid the required impact fees to obtain building permits for 11 lots. On February 20, 1998, plaintiffs applied for and obtained a twelfth permit for an additional lot, designated Lot 8.

The amended complaint sought a declaration that the required impact fees exceeded the Village's statutory and constitutional authority and a "refund" of all monies plaintiffs paid to the Village as impact fees. The Village filed a motion to dismiss pursuant to section 2-619(a)(5) of the Code of Civil Procedure (Code) (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(5) (West 2000)), asserting that plaintiffs' claims were barred by the one-year statute of limitations contained in section 8-101 of the Tort Immunity Act (745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 2000)). *fn1 With respect to Lot 8, the Village alleged that plaintiffs had no standing to assert a claim for that lot because the lot owner, not plaintiffs, paid the impact fees.

The trial court dismissed plaintiffs' amended complaint with prejudice. The appellate court reversed the dismissal of the complaint, holding that the Act applied only to actions sounding in tort, and remanded the matter to a different judge. 335 Ill. App. 3d at 321. The appellate court did not address the Village's argument regarding standing. See 335 Ill. App. 3d at 321. We allowed the Village's petition for leave to appeal (177 Ill. 2d R. 315(a)), and also allowed the Village of Kildeer, the City of Chicago and the Illinois Municipal League to file amicus curiae briefs in support of the Village (155 Ill. 2d R. 345).

ANALYSIS

The Village first requests this court to reverse the appellate court and uphold the dismissal of plaintiffs' complaint under section 2-619(a)(5) of the Code. Under section 2-619(a)(5), a defendant is entitled to a dismissal if the "action was not commenced within the time limited by law." 735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(5) (West 2002). An appeal from a section 2-619 dismissal is similar to an appeal following a grant of summary judgment, and both are subject to de novo review. Carroll v. Paddock, 199 Ill. 2d 16, 22 (2002); Kedzie & 103rd Currency Exchange, Inc. v. Hodge, 156 Ill. 2d 112, 116 (1993). In both cases, the reviewing court must determine whether the existence of a genuine issue of material fact should have precluded the dismissal or, absent such an issue of fact, whether the dismissal is proper as a matter of law. Carroll, 199 Ill. 2d at 22; Kedzie & 103rd Currency Exchange, Inc., 156 Ill. 2d at 116-17.

The Village argues that section 8-101 of the Tort Immunity Act unambiguously provides that any "civil action" filed against a municipality, other than those actions specifically excluded by section 2-101 of the Act (745 ILCS 10/2-101 (West 2002)), must be filed within one year from the date the cause of action accrues. As a civil action for damages, the Village asserts, plaintiffs' cause of action is barred by the Act. Section 8-101 provides as follows:

"No civil action may be commenced in any court against a local entity or any of its employees for any injury unless it is commenced within one year from the date that the injury was received or the cause of action accrued. For purposes of this Article, the term `civil action' includes any action, whether based upon the common law or statutes or Constitution of this State." 745 ILCS 10/8-101 (West 2000).

The enumerated exceptions to which the Village refers are listed in section 2-101, which provides:

"Nothing in this Act affects the right to obtain relief other than damages against a local public entity or public employee. Nothing in this Act affects the liability, if any, of a ...

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