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VISION CHURCH v. VILLAGE OF LONG GROVE

October 18, 2005.

VISION CHURCH, UNITED METHODIST, Plaintiff,
v.
VILLAGE OF LONG GROVE, Defendant.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: CHARLES NORGLE Sr., Judge

AMENDED OPINION AND ORDER

Before the court is Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment brought pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure 56(c). For the following reasons, Defendant's Motion for Summary Judgment is granted.

I. BACKGROUND*fn1

  A. Facts

  The voluminous record in this case arises out of a dispute between Plaintiff Vision Church ("Vision") and the Village of Long Grove (the "Village") over the development of real property. The Village of Long Grove is located on 18 square miles in Lake County, Illinois, and has a population of approximately 6,735. See http://www.longgrove.net (visited 9/30/2005).

  Vision is an Illinois not-for-profit religious organization, with its principal place of business in Mundelein, Illinois. According to Vision, the church's congregation is composed of Americans of Korean decent. As of December 2000, Vision asserted that its then-current congregation consisted of 140 adults and 80 youths and children. Vision estimated that by 2010, the congregation would grow to 1,000 adults and 500 children. Vision is a local church of United Methodist ("Methodist"), one of more than 30,000 other local churches.

  Under Methodist ecclesiastical laws, the Northern Illinois Conference of the United Methodist Church (the "Conference") is the basic unit that connects Methodist to this geographical region. According to its website, Methodist has 34,892 local churches, comprised of 8,186,275 lay members, and 45,176 clergy members. See http://archives.umc.org. (visited 10/17/2005). Methodist's legislative branch is called the General Conference. General agencies within Methodist are primarily accountable to the General Conference. Each local church in the United States and Puerto Rico is part of a district, an administrative and program grouping of 408-0 churches with a full-time superintendent. Districts are grouped into annual conferences, regional bodies that meet yearly for legislative purposes. Annual conferences approve the budget, elect delegates to General and Jurisdictional conferences, and examine and recommend candidates for ministry. Five geographic divisions in the United States include 8-13 annual conferences each. Jurisdictional conferences meet simultaneously every four years to elect and assign bishops and some members of general church agencies, and, in some cases, to develop jurisdictional programs. Each local church is governed by a charge conference with an administrative board as the year-round supervisor. A council on ministries coordinates the program of the congregation. In smaller churches, the board and the council are combined. See id. 1. Vision's 2001 Annexation Petition

  In 1999, the Village Board of Trustees adopted and ratified a Comprehensive Plan which established certain fundamental goals and policies for land use within the Village limits. According to the Comprehensive Plan, essential to the Village's planning goals are the provisions for a quiet countryside, with an unhurried and unstructured environment where families can live in and enjoy open space. The Village has used the Comprehensive Plan as a guideline when it drafted its Zoning Code, and in make various zoning decisions, such as the approval of annexations and residential developments.

  Also in 1999, Vision, which was then located in Park Ridge, began to look for a new site to build its church complex. Initially, Vision sought a 10 acre parcel of land. When it was unable to locate a tract suitable for its use, Vision entered into an agreement on July 29, 1999 to purchase a 27.4 acre vacant piece of land located in unincorporated Lake County. The contract contained a "zoning contingency clause," which enabled Vision to terminate the contract if it did not obtain zoning approval from Lake County within 180 days (January 2000) of entering into the agreement. In October 1999, upon Vision's request, the sellers agreed to amend the zoning contingency, and extended the termination date until May 31, 2000.

  In June 2000, Vision filed an application for voluntary annexation with the Village pursuant to 65 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/7-1-8. The application was conditioned on two results: that the Village (1) zone the property Residential, and (2) grant Vision a Special Use Permit. Vision's proposal included a 99,000 square-foot complex of five buildings, including a 1,000 seat sanctuary, and several smaller buildings.

  Because Vision did not file its annexation petition by May 31, 2000, it did not exercise the termination clause under the contract. In September 2000, Vision eventually closed on the purchase of the property. As of that date, Vision had not applied to Lake County for approval to build a church complex on the property, and its voluntary annexation petition with the Village had not been granted. At the time of the closing, the 27.4 acre property was thus not located within the village limits, and as a result, the Village did not have the authority to zone the land or take action on any development plan under the Village's Zoning Code.

  Consistent with the 1999 Comprehensive Plan, in June 2000, the land within the Village was divided into residential, business, office and research, and open space districts. Within these districts, the Zoning Code provided for Planned Unit Developments ("PUDs") as special uses. The majority of the Village is zoned either residential or approved PUD. Churches were classified as a "special use." In order to obtain approval as a "special use" an applicant must: (1) be in a zoning district where the use was allowed as a special use (i.e., churches in a residential district), and (2) meet the standards set forth in the Zoning Code. The specific standards in the Zoning Code did not specify any minimum or maximum square foot requirement for a proposed building.

  Special Use applications are initially brought before the Village Plan Commission. The Plan Commission is an advisory board that is responsible for conducting hearings and making recommendations in regard to certain land use decisions, including Special Use applications. After a public hearing, the Plan Commission makes a recommendation on the Special Use application to the Board. The Board has the final approval of a Special Use Application.

  In March 2001, after lengthy negotiations, Vision presented the Village a revised proposal, seeking a 59,000 square-foot complex with three main buildings, including a 600 seat sanctuary, an administration building, and a Sunday school building. Then, on April 3, 2001, at a Plan Commission meeting, Vision orally agreed to various pre-development conditions on their parcel. At the end of the April 3 meeting, the Village claims that the Plan Commission wanted more information on Vision's plan, and asked the church to submit a revised set of drawings that would: (1) reflect revisions consistent with the changes Vision agreed to, and (2) provide more detail regarding Vision's proposal. According to the Village, Vision never provided the Plan Commission with these materials. Vision, on the other hand, contends that the Plan Commission never requested a set of revised drawings.

  On July 6, 2001, Vision's counsel informed the Village that Vision had chosen to rest on its application as presently submitted, and requested a vote on the pending application for annexation. Granting the request, a vote was scheduled on Vision's annexation petition for August 7, 2001. According to the Village, on August 6, Vision's counsel rejected several of the proposed conditions set forth by the Village, including the Village's request that Vision promise no future expansion if the Village approved a 59,000 square-foot facility. Such a restriction on growth is known as a conservancy easement. The next day, the Plan Commission recommended the denial of Vision's application. Vision alleges that it agreed to limit future expansion, but did not want a conservancy easement because it wanted to reserve certain open space on the property as a play area for children. On August 14, the Board voted to accept the Plan Commission's recommendation, and formally declined to voluntarily annex the property.

  2. The Valenti Property

  In May 2001, Joseph Valenti ("Valenti"), a developer who owned land adjacent to Vision's parcel filed an application to have his 120-acre property annexed to the Village and approved as a residential PUD. On August 7, 2001, the same day as Vision's public hearing, the Plan Commission conducted a public hearing on Valenti's property. Then, at the September 4, 2001 meeting, the Plan Commission voted to recommend the voluntary annexation of the Valenti Property. On September 25, 2001, the Board voted 4-3 to approve the Valenti PUD, and on October 9, approved the annexation of the Valenti Property. As a result of this annexation, Vision's property became completely surrounded by land located within the Village boundaries. Under Illinois law, the Village could then involuntarily annex Vision's property without having to accept the conditions of rezoning and a special use permit that Vision had insisted upon when it sought voluntary annexation. See 65 ILL. COMP. STAT. 5/7-1-13. Eventually, on October 23, 2001, the Village involuntarily annexed Vision's property. At the time the Village annexed the property, it was aware that Vision had applied to Lake County for approval of a plan. This County plan was bigger than Vision's March 2001 plan, which the Village rejected: the 59,000 square foot complex contained three main buildings and other smaller buildings.

  According to the Village, the Valenti Property was annexed because Valenti's voluntary annexation petition and PUD proposal complied with the Village's zoning ordinance, land use goals and objectives set forth in the Comprehensive Plan. However, Vision claims that the Village rushed to annex the Valenti Property in order to involuntary annex Vision's land, and subject the church to the Village's zoning rules. Valenti's application was filed in May 2001, and approved by the Board in October, 2001. Vision does not claim any procedural improprieties.

  3. The Public Assembly Ordinance and Denial of Vision's 2002 Application

  In November 2001, Village Manager Cal Doughty ("Doughty") recommended to the Village Board that it consider a comprehensive amendment, the "Public Assembly Ordinance," to the Village Zoning Code for the location of, and standards for, "Public Assembly Uses," such as religious institutions, private schools, meeting halls, and clubs. On November 12, an initial draft of this Ordinance was presented to the Village President and Board. The Village contends that the Ordinance applies to all public assembly uses regardless of their religious or secular nature, and regardless of the speech conducted within these buildings. On April 9, 2002, the Board voted to enact the Ordinance.

  As enacted, the Ordinance regulates the maximum number of square feet for public assembly buildings, and the maximum total volume of these buildings. See Am. Compl., Ex. F. The maximum square-footage and volume is dependant upon the size of the land on which the project is located, and the type of roadway it fronts. For example, public use buildings may only front state highways. Id. The Village asserts that this correlation between highway access and building size is based upon the planning principle that a state highway can accommodate more cars, people, and a larger complex. Vision, however, asserts that in the Village there is no rational distinction between State of Illinois and Lake County roads for purposes of servicing public facilities.

  On January 23, 2002, two months after the Public Assembly Ordinance was proposed and under consideration by the Village, Vision applied for a special use permit to allow construction of a church complex on their property. In response to an inquiry made by the Village Manager regarding the new proposal, Vision's counsel stated that Vision was unwilling to restrict the use of certain open areas, and future construction on the site. On June 18, 2002, Vision presented a plan for an 80,000 square-foot proposal, but asked the Plan Commission to vote on the 99,000 square-foot plan. The Plan Commission recommended that the Board deny the application, and the Board accepted the recommendation and formally denied the special use application. Vision's 2002 application did not comply with the criteria set forth in the Public Assembly Ordinance, which required a complex like Vision's to have a maximum area of 55,000 square-feet. The ...


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