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David Barber v. the City of Springfield

January 26, 2011

DAVID BARBER,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
THE CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, AN ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, AND LEGACY POINTE DEVELOPMENT COMPANY, AN ILLINOIS LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY
DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County No.09MR896 Honorable Patrick W. Kelley, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Pope

JUSTICE POPE delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Justices Turner and Steigmann concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

In March 2010, the trial court dismissed plaintiff David Barber's complaint against defendants, the City of Springfield (City) and Legacy Pointe Development Company (Legacy Pointe), for lack of standing pursuant to defendants' motions under section 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-619(a)(9) (West 2008)). Plaintiff appeals, arguing he has standing as a taxpayer of the City. We affirm.

I. BACKGROUND

In December 2009, plaintiff filed this suit for declaratory and injunctive relief, claiming the City illegally enacted public ordinances by which it, inter alia, established the South Central Business District (see 65 ILCS 5/11-74.3-2 (West 2008)); adopted a business plan with respect to the district (see 65 ILCS 5/11-74.3-1 (West 2008)); imposed retailers', service, and hotel operators' occupation taxes on businesses in the district (see 65 ILCS 5/11-74.3-3(12), (13) (West 2008)); and entered into agreements with Legacy Pointe to develop the district (see 65 ILCS 5/11-74.3-3(6) (West 2008)). Specifically, plaintiff alleged the City acted upon fraudulent findings that the area comprising the district was blighted and would not develop naturally in the absence of business districting (see 65 ILCS 5/11-73.3-5(3) (West 2008)).

In his complaint, plaintiff alleged he had standing as a taxpayer of the City. Citing Malec v. City of Belleville, 384 Ill. App. 3d 465, 891 N.E.2d 1039 (2008), plaintiff alleged in the complaint, "As a taxpayer, plaintiff has an equitable interest in tax funds[,] and he has standing to bring an action in equity to prevent his equitable interest in public resources from being used for an illegal purpose." Plaintiff further alleged,

"The [C]ity plans to spend millions of dollars in tax funds in connection with the *** ordinances and the agreements executed pursuant to those ordinances. Accordingly, *** plaintiff has been irreparably harmed[,] and this harm will continue unless and until this [c]court grants injunctive relief."

In count I of his complaint, plaintiff characterized the City's findings of blight and unlikelihood of development as "a fraud on the taxpayers of the [C]ity." In count II, he alleged again, "The [C]ity plans to spend millions of dollars in tax funds in connection with the *** ordinances and *** agreements executed pursuant to those ordinances."

In January 2010, the City filed a combined motion pursuant to section 2-619.1 to dismiss the complaint under sections 2-615 and 2-619(a)(9) of the Code of Civil Procedure (735 ILCS 5/2-615, 2-619(a)(9), 2-619.1 (West 2008)), and Legacy Pointe filed separate motions to dismiss under sections 2-615 and 2-619(a)(9). Both defendants asserted plaintiff's lack of standing, inter alia, as an affirmative defense to the complaint requiring dismissal under section 2-619(a)(9).

In March 2010, the trial court held a hearing on defendants' motions to dismiss and granted both defendants' section 2-619(a)(9) motions in a docket order. The court agreed with defendants' argument that plaintiff lacked standing as a taxpayer. The court found, specifically,

"because [p]laintiff does not own property within the business district and is not required to purchase goods there, he is not within the universe of taxpayers who may be adversely affected by the 1% supplemental sales tax imposed in the business district. Additionally, the court finds the 1% business[-]district tax is imposed in addition to the standard city sales tax[;] consequently, the business[-]district tax results in no dimunition [sic] of sales[-]tax revenue to the [C]ity that would require replenishment by taxpayers."

Because it found plaintiff lacked standing, the court did not address the remaining arguments presented by defendants in their motions to dismiss.

This appeal followed.

II. ANALYSIS

On appeal, plaintiff argues he enjoys standing as a taxpayer of the City to challenge the City's expenditure of funds to develop the business district pursuant to the allegedly fraudulent ordinances in question. Defendants maintain plaintiff lacks standing because of the nature of the business-district taxes plaintiff challenges. We agree with defendants and affirm.

A. Standard of Review

We review the trial court's dismissal pursuant to a section 2-619(a)(9) motion to dismiss de novo. See Sellers v. Rudert, 395 Ill. App. 3d 1041, 1045, 918 N.E.2d 586, 590 (2009). Further, we review the trial court's finding plaintiff lacked standing de novo. See ...


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