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Hamed v. City of Belleville

August 23, 2010


The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge.


I. Introduction

The following account is as alleged by Plaintiff Nassir Hamed. In April 2008, Plaintiff purchased property located at 530 North Douglas Avenue in Belleville, Illinois (the "Property"). A building is located on the Property (the "Building"). Plaintiff made this purchase with the intent of operating a local convenience or grocery store.*fn1 Early the following year, in January 2009, Plaintiff began renovations on the Building so that he could begin operating it as a store. As required, Plaintiff applied for an was issued a permit by defendant the City of Belleville ("Belleville" or the "City") for commercial utilities, pursuant to a building permit. Also that month, Plaintiff met with a City Building Inspector and informed him of his intentions regarding the opening of a convenience or grocery store on the Property. The City Building Inspector allowed construction to continue to renovate the Property. Three months later, after substantial renovations had been completed and much to Plaintiff's surprise, the same City Building Inspector informed Plaintiff that the Property was actually zoned residential. In fact, although Plaintiff alleges the Property was originally zoned commercial, it was re-zoned as single-family residential in February 2000.*fn2 The City had, however, continued to tax the Property at a higher rate for commercial property each year following its re-zoning as residential.

After discovering that the Property was not zoned commercial, Plaintiff promptly filed an Application for Use Variance (the "Application") with the City. Although the City's Zoning Board of Appeals recommended that Plaintiff's variance be granted, the City Council ultimately denied his Application. Plaintiff thereafter filed the instant lawsuit. His Complaint (Doc. 1), consists of the following six counts:*fn3 Count I - Inverse Condemnation; Count II - Denial of Equal Protection; Count III - Denial of Due Process; Count IV - § 1983 Civil Rights Violation; Count V -Appeal Pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act ("APA"), 65ILL.COMP.STAT.

5/11-13-13, and Count VII - a claim for Declaratory Judgment. Plaintiff alleges jurisdiction based on federal question jurisdiction, 28 U.S.C. § 1331, as well as seeks the Court to exercise supplemental jurisdiction under 28 U.S.C. § 1367 for his state law claims.

Defendant has filed a Motion to Dismiss (Doc. 16), pursuant to FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(1) and 12(b)(6). Overall, Defendant argues that Plaintiff's Complaint should be dismissed in its entirety for failure to state a claim upon which relief may be granted, as Plaintiff's claims are not yet "ripe" for adjudication in this Court. In addition to the ripeness argument, Defendant also bases its Motion on several grounds: Plaintiff's inverse condemnation claim in Count I and his declaratory judgment claim in Count VII each fail to invoke federal jurisdiction; Plaintiff has not sufficiently plead a claim for denial of equal protection in Count II or for denial of due process in Counts III or IV; and Plaintiff's APA appeal in Count V fails because is actually a prerequisite to filing the instant suit. Plaintiff has filed a timely Response (Doc. 20) opposing Defendant's arguments. Upon review of the Parties' arguments and the law applicable to the issues, as the Court will further elaborate in its discussion, it finds only Plaintiff's equal protection claims to be properly before it.

II. Legal Standard

A. Rule 12(b)(1)

FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(1) allows a party to raise as a defense a federal court's lack of subject matter jurisdiction over a plaintiff's claims. FED.R.CIV.P.12(b)(1). When a defendant makes this challenge, the plaintiff bears the burden of establishing jurisdiction. The Court must "accept as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and draw all reasonable inferences in favor of the plaintiff." St. John's United Church of Christ v. City of Chicago, 502 F.3d 616, 625 (7th Cir. 2007) (citation omitted). Yet, if necessary, the Court may also look beyond the jurisdictional allegations to evidence outside of the pleadings to determine whether federal subject matter jurisdiction exists. Id. (citations omitted).

B. Rule 12(b)(6)

When ruling on a motion to dismiss for failure to state a claim under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 12(b)(6), the Court must look to the complaint to determine whether it satisfies the threshold pleading requirements under FEDERAL RULE OF CIVIL PROCEDURE 8. Rule 8 states that a complaint need only contain a "short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief." FED.R.CIV. P. 8(a)(2). The Supreme Court held that Rule 8 requires a complaint to allege "enough facts to state a claim to relief that is plausible on its face" to survive a Rule 12(b)(6) motion. Bell Atlantic Corp. v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 570 (2007). In other words, the Supreme Court explained it was "a plaintiff's obligation to provide the 'grounds' of his 'entitle[ment] to relief' [by providing] more than labels and conclusions, [because] a formulaic recitation of the elements of a cause of action will not do . . . ." Id. at 555-56 (quoting Papasan v. Allain, 478 U.S. 265, 286 (1986)). "Nor does a complaint suffice if it tenders 'naked assertion[s]' devoid of 'further factual enhancement.' " Ashcroft v. Iqbal, --- U.S.---, --- 129 S.Ct. 1937, 1949 (2009) (quoting Twombly, 550 U.S. at 557).

Recently, in Iqbal, the Supreme Court made clear that the federal pleading standard under Rule 8 as discussed in its Twombly opinion applies "for all civil actions." Id. at ---, 129 S.Ct. at 1953. Iqbal identified the "two working principles" underlying the decision in Twombly: (1) "the tenet that a court must accept as true all of the allegations contained in a complaint is inapplicable to legal conclusions. Threadbare recitals of the elements of a cause of action, supported by mere conclusory statements, do not suffice;" and (2) "only a complaint that states a plausible claim for relief survives a motion to dismiss." Id. at ---,129 S.Ct. at 1949 (citing Twombly, 550 U.S. at 555-56).In short, a court should only assume to be true a complaint's well-pleaded factual allegations, and not its mere legal conclusions, when determining whether such allegations plausibly give rise to relief. Id. at ---, 129 S.Ct. at 1950.

III. Discussion

A. Subject Matter ...

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