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Trotter v. Spezio

June 23, 2004

[5] BRUCE TROTTER, AS THE HIGHWAY COMMISSIONER OF THE GOOSE LAKE TOWNSHIP ROAD DISTRICT, GRUNDY COUNTY, ILLINOIS, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
LINDA SPEZIO, INDEPENDENT EXECUTOR OF THE ESTATE OF JAYNE R. THOMPSON, DECEASED, AND UNKNOWN OWNERS, DEFENDANTS (DAVID PHILLIPS, ANN HOLDERMAN, AND LINDA JOHNSON, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS).



[6] Appeal from the Circuit Court of the 13th Judicial Circuit Grundy County, Illinois. No. 02-ED-1. Honorable Lance R. Peterson, Judge, Presiding.

[7] The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Schmidt

[8]  This appeal involves issues and circumstances surrounding a local authority's attempt to exercise its eminent domain power. The plaintiff, Bruce Trotter (commissioner), acting in his capacity as the highway commissioner of the Goose Lake Township Road District, filed a complaint for condemnation of 2.541 acres located in Grundy County. The defendants are landowners having an interest in that parcel of land. Defendants filed a traverse and motion to dismiss the complaint. The circuit court of Grundy County denied the landowners' motion and, after a bench trial, entered judgment awarding the landowners $8,200 for full compensation of the parcel. Only landowners Phillips, Holderman and Johnson appeal.

[9]  BACKGROUND

[10]   White Tie Road runs through Goose Lake Township in Grundy County, Illinois. This road is essentially an east-west road that has a bow to the north creating an "S" curve at the section which is the subject of this litigation. Claypool Ditch runs along the south side of the road near the section that contains the curve.

[11]   In accordance with section 6--303 of the Illinois Highway Code (the Code) (605 ILCS 5/6--303 (West 2002)), a petition was filed with the highway commissioner seeking to "modify, alter and improve White Tie Road." Modifying White Tie Road in the manner requested by the petitioners would also necessitate the altering of Claypool Ditch to prevent White Tie Road from flooding.

[12]   Pursuant to section 6--305 of the Code (605 ILCS 5/6--305 (West 2002)), a public meeting was held on the petition. After taking evidence, a "final decision" was entered by the highway commissioner.

[13]   The commissioner made the following findings in this final decision:

[14]   "1. White Tie Road, in its present configuration, poses a threat to the safety of motorists and their property. In order to eliminate that threat, it is in the best interest of the public and in the economic interest of the District to improve White Tie Road as prayed for in the Petition and as depicted on Exhibit A to the Petition.

[15]   2. The Claypool Drainage Ditch, in its present configuration, poses a threat to the safety of motorists and their property. In order to eliminate that threat, it is in the best interest of the public and the economic interests of the District to construct an overflow channel for the Claypool Drainage Ditch as prayed for in the Petition and as depicted on Exhibit A to the Petition.

[16]   3. The aforesaid improvements will require the acquisition of the property described in the Petition and it is in the best interest of the public and economic interest of the District to do so.

[17]   4. After the aforesaid improvements are made, any person residing or owning land within 2 miles of that portion of White Tie Road proposed to be altered, modified and improved, will still have reasonable access thereto by way of motor vehicle and other portable farm machinery commonly used in the area and to community and trade centers."

[18]   The landowners offered no evidence below contesting the validity of the commissioner's findings.

[19]   The commissioner then granted the petition and announced "that the property described in the Petition be acquired in conformance with the authority set forth in 605 ILCS 5/6--303, et seq." Five weeks later, the commissioner adopted a "resolution" providing for the acquisition of the 2.541 acres of land. The resolution stated that the commissioner could not agree with the landowners as to an amount of just compensation and that he determined it was necessary to file a condemnation action.

[20]   The commissioner filed a condemnation suit approximately one month following the adoption of the resolution. The condemnation complaint attached and incorporated by reference the original petition, commissioner's final decision and resolution. The landowners filed a traverse and motion to dismiss, which was denied. A judgment order was entered following a bench trial fixing the landowners' compensation ...


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