APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. No. 07 CH 16368 THE HONORABLE STUART PALMER, JUDGE PRESIDING.
The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Hoffman
Following a remand from the Illinois Supreme Court, the Circuit Court of Cook County entered an order finding that the plaintiff, 1350 Lake Shore Associates (LSA), failed to prove a clear right to a writ of mandamus, as its pre-development expenditures were not sufficiently substantial to acquire a vested right in the continuation of a former zoning classification. LSA now appeals, raising a number of factual and legal challenges to the circuit court's decision. For the reasons which follow, we affirm.
The procedural history of this matter is long and complex, comprising over 11 years of litigation and numerous appeals. For the sake of brevity, we have attempted to limit our recitation of the facts to those necessary to resolve the issues presented in the instant appeal.
In 1952, LSA's predecessor in interest purchased the property located at 1320-30 Lake Shore Drive (the property) for $195,118.08. Twenty-six years later, on November 14, 1978, the Chicago City Council approved LSA's application to change the property's zoning from an "R8 General Residence District" classification to "Residential Planned Development 196" (RPD 196). The RPD 196 classification permitted the construction of a 40-story, 196-unit apartment building on the property.
After having secured the passage of RPD 196, LSA chose not to develop the property at that time. It was not until 1996 that LSA's agent, Draper and Kramer, Inc. (Draper), began investigating the possibility of developing the property in conformity with RPD 196. To that end, Draper hired Jack Guthman, an attorney specializing in zoning law, in early 1997. Draper also subsequently hired an architect, a surveyor, an urban planner, an elevator consultant, and an artist to create a rendering from the architect's conceptual drawings.
In April or May of 1997, Guthman and representatives of Draper met with Charles Bernardini, then alderman of the ward in which the property is located. At that meeting, Bernardini was shown the preliminary designs for a high-rise building. Though Bernardini acknowledged that he did not mention changing the property's zoning classification at this time, he did inform Guthman and the Draper representatives that, due its size and density, the proposed development would be controversial and that, if they wanted his support, they should meet with neighborhood representatives and reach an agreement.
Shortly after the first meeting, Bernardini told Guthman that he had received complaints from neighbors regarding the project and that he was considering down-zoning the property if LSA and the neighbors could not reach a compromise. No agreement was reached, and, on December 10, 1997, Bernardini introduced an ordinance before the Chicago City Council to down zone the property to an "R6 General Residence District."
The next day, the project's architect submitted plans for a high-rise building to the City of Chicago's Department of Planning and Development, seeking the issuance of a Part II Approval letter. For a property located in a planned development, a Part II Approval letter is a prerequisite to the issuance of a zoning certificate, which, in turn, is a prerequisite to the issuance of a building permit. See Chicago Zoning Ordinance § 11.5 (amended 7-21-00), § 11.11-3(b) (amended 12-11-91).
On April 29, 1998, the Chicago City Council approved the down-zoning ordinance. LSA never received a response from the Department of Planning and Development regarding its request for a Part II Approval letter. Without a Part II Approval letter, LSA was unable to obtain a zoning certificate or a building permit.
On August 25, 1998, LSA filed a complaint naming as defendants the City of Chicago (City) and the Commissioner of the Department of Planning and Development. In relevant part, LSA's complaint sought a writ of mandamus directing the Commissioner to issue a Part II Approval letter*fn1 . Thereafter, certain individuals who lived within 250 feet of the property at issue were allowed to intervene.
Following a trial, the circuit court ruled in favor of the defendants and the intervenors, finding that a Part II Approval letter need not be issued because a down-zoning ordinance was pending before the city council. On appeal, we concluded that the circuit court erroneously relied upon the pending-ordinance doctrine and remanded the case with directions that a writ of mandamus be entered requiring that a Part II Approval letter be issued. 1350 Lake Shore Associates v. Hill, 326 Ill. App. 3d 788, 798, 761 N.E.2d 760 (2001) (Lake Shore I).
Upon remand, the intervenors filed a motion seeking a declaration that LSA was not entitled to a zoning certificate or building permit for the development of its proposed high-rise building. LSA then amended its complaint, seeking orders requiring the City to issue it a zoning certificate and enjoining the City from interfering with its rights under RPD 196.
Although the circuit court ordered that a Part II Approval letter be issued, it held that LSA did not have a vested right to the issuance of a zoning certificate or building permit. The circuit court specifically found that the expenditures incurred by LSA were not made in good-faith reliance on the RPD 196 zoning classification, but were made in the hope of reaching a compromise with the neighborhood representatives.
On appeal, this court concluded that LSA's vested-rights claim required additional findings of fact. Accordingly, we remanded the matter to the circuit court with directions to make specific findings as to: (1) the date on which LSA knew or should have known that it was probable that Bernardini would introduce a down-zoning ordinance; (2) the total amount of the expenses incurred by LSA in connection with the project as of that date; and (3) whether those expenses were substantial enough to give rise to a vested right to the issuance of a zoning certificate and building permit pursuant to RPD 196. 1350 Lake Shore Associates v. Mazur-Berg, 339 Ill. App. 3d 618, 640-41, 791 N.E.2d 60 (2003) (Lake Shore II).
On remand, the circuit court determined that: (1) LSA knew it was probable that Bernardini would introduce a down-zoning ordinance on any date after the meeting in April or May of 1997 between Guthman, the Draper representatives, and Bernardini; (2) as of that date, LSA had expended $18,900.16 in connection with the project; and (3) the expenditures were not sufficiently substantial to give LSA a vested ...