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Burton v. City of Peoria

October 31, 2008

MARY BURTON, PLAINTIFF,
v.
CITY OF PEORIA, ILLINOIS, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION; MIKE JOHNSON, BADGE # 589, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; CHRIS HOPKINS, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; JOHN CLIFT, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, KELLY O'KEEFE; IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY; AND JOHN MOORE, IN HIS INDIVIDUAL CAPACITY, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Joe Billy Mcdade United States District Judge

OPINION & ORDER

Before the Court is Defendants' Joint Motion for Summary Judgment, filed on June 6, 2008 (Doc. 50). Plaintiff filed a response on July 13, 2008 (Doc. 53), and Defendants replied on July 30, 2008 (Doc. 55). For the reasons stated below, Defendants' motion is GRANTED, in part, and DENIED, in part. Because the Court disposes of Plaintiff's remaining federal claims in this Opinion, this case is terminated and Plaintiff is advised to raise her supplemental state law claims in state court.

FACTUAL BACKGROUND

This is a civil rights case, including supplemental state law claims of common law trespass and false imprisonment, stemming from a dispute over the ownership of a driveway immediately east of Lot 33 of Darst and Comstock's Subdivision in the City of Peoria, Illinois. Lot 33 is also commonly known as 1333 East Nebraska Avenue. On August 20, 1968, the Peoria City Council passed an ordinance ("1968 Ordinance") that vacated and closed what was then known as North Springdale Street, from East Nebraska Avenue to East Frye Avenue in the City of Peoria. North Springdale Street ran north-south in direction, and a portion of the street was immediately adjacent to the east side of Lot 33. Immediately to the north of Lot 33, North Springdale intersected with a city alley that ran west out to Prospect Road. The 1968 Ordinance contained language reserving easements to the City of Peoria and to Central Illinois Light Company and its successors, for purposes of using and maintaining sewers and gas mains, respectively. (Ptf.'s Ex. 1).

Plaintiff Mary Burton purchased the home at 1333 East Nebraska Avenue (a.k.a. Lot 33 or "rental property") in 1975 with her husband, subject to the easements and restrictions of record for that parcel. (Burton Dep. at pp. 13-14; Burton Dep. Ex. 2). Plaintiff has since managed the home as a rental property. For the entire time that Plaintiff has owned Lot 33, members of the public have utilized the city alley immediately to the north of the lot and, in doing so, have driven upon the portion of old vacated North Springdale Street that adjoins Lot 33 on the lot's east side ("Springdale Extension"). The public has done this routinely, even though a "No Outlet" sign is posted at the alley's entrance. (SMF ¶ 21).

Over the years, the City of Peoria has treated the Springdale Extension as a portion of the city alley that intersects with Prospect Road. (Ptf.'s Ex. 5; Haste Dep. at pp. 26, 29-30 ). City of Peoria road crews have regularly resurfaced the asphalt pavement of the Springdale Extension since 1975, and the city has plowed the Extension at times during the winter. (SMF ¶¶ 25, 27-28).

Plaintiff, on the other hand, has treated the Extension as her private driveway. To fend off the public, Plaintiff has, among other things, occasionally posted "no trespassing" or "private drive" signs at the Extension's entrance, but the signs have mysteriously disappeared soon after they were posted. (SMF ¶ 22). Plaintiff has allowed her tenants to park their cars on the Extension, although the rental property has its own parking lot to the rear of the building. (SMF ¶ 23, 83).

The divergent views of Plaintiff and of city employees, regarding ownership of the Extension, has led to tension. The first manifestation of that tension occurred about ten years ago when Plaintiff hired a contractor to do some work at the rental property ("Contractor Incident"). Plaintiff allowed the contractor to park on the Extension so that he could easily haul items into his truck. At that time, a Peoria City Code Officer came to the property and threatened the contractor with a ticket for blocking a public alley. The contractor was forced to move his truck off of the Extension. (Burton Dep. at pp. 35-36).

The tension between Plaintiff and the city came to a head on March 15, 2006, when a road crew employed by the City of Peoria Department of Street and Sewer began to perform maintenance on the Springdale Extension, pursuant to directions from officials in that department. (SMF ¶ 61). The crew included Defendants Hopkins, Clift, O'Keefe, and Moore. When the crew arrived at the area near Plaintiff's rental property that day, they found that a car was parked on the Extension. Because the car interfered with the planned maintenance, the police department was alerted, and Peoria police officer Mike Johnson soon arrived at the scene. Officer Johnson discovered that the car was registered to an address in Pekin and that it had not been reported stolen. As a result, Officer Johnson ticketed the vehicle for being abandoned and for blocking a city alley. The vehicle was towed. (SMF ¶ 41). The car, in fact, belonged to the daughter of one of Plaintiff's tenants.

After receiving a call from that tenant, Plaintiff drove to the rental property and discovered that the road crew was performing maintenance. She ordered the road workers to stop and had her tenant call the police. The crew stopped working until a police officer arrived. (SMF ¶ 48). Officer Johnson, the same officer that had issued the ticket earlier that day, arrived at the scene. Plaintiff explained to Officer Johnson that the Springdale Extension was her private drive and that city workers had no right to be performing maintenance on it. Officer Johnson, however, was under the impression that the Extension was a public alley. (SMF ¶ 51). He relayed this belief to Plaintiff, and a heated dispute erupted between the two. Officer Johnson eventually told Plaintiff to take the issue up with City Hall, and he left the scene. It is unclear if the road crew resumed work on the Extension that day.

On or about March 16, 2006, Plaintiff called David Haste, the Street and Sewer Manager. To Haste's knowledge at that point, the Springdale Extension had always been a city alley. (SMF ¶ 60). When Haste checked the department's map, the map corroborated his belief. (SMF ¶ 65; Ptf.'s Ex. 5). Haste subsequently went to City Hall and checked the map on record at the City of Peoria Engineering Department. That map also indicated that the Extension was a city alley. (SMF ¶ 66).

Haste further investigated the issue and obtained information from the Peoria County Courthouse which led him to believe that the city's maps were mistaken. (SMF ¶ 67). Haste instructed the planner at the Street and Sewer Department to amend the department's map so as to reflect that the Springdale Extension was not a city alley. (Ptf.'s Ex. 5). Haste also had further conversations with Plaintiff, and these conversations led to the City of Peoria Traffic Department installing orange barrels to impede public access to the Extension. (SMF ¶ 68). The barrels have since been moved, and the public still uses the Extension. (SMF ¶ 69).

Later, on August 19, 2006, Officer Johnson noticed that two vehicles were parked on the Extension. One vehicle was a truck and an attached trailer with flat tires. The other was a Winnebago motor home that had no record on file and a license plate that was almost eight years out of date. Officer Johnson entered onto the Extension and again issued tickets to the vehicles for blocking a city alley. (Ptf.'s Ex. 8).

On September 21, 2006, Plaintiff filed a Complaint in federal court seeking declaratory and injunctive relief as well as monetary damages based on the city's alleged interference with her ownership rights in the Springdale Extension. (Doc. 1). Plaintiff claimed that the city and the individual Defendants had effected an ad hoc taking of her property in violation of the Fifth Amendment. Plaintiff also alleged "class of one" equal protection claims under the Fourteenth Amendment as well as common law claims of trespass and of false imprisonment by Officer Johnson. Plaintiff filed an Amended Complaint on April 11, 2007 in which she identified the road workers who had been unnamed in her original Complaint. (Doc. 23). By Order of July 9, 2007, the Court dismissed without prejudice Count I of the Amended Complaint, which included Plaintiff's Fifth Amendment takings claim. (Doc. 36). On June ...


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