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Ip Plaza, LLC, An Illinois Limited Liability Company v. Stephen Bean

November 3, 2011

IP PLAZA, LLC, AN ILLINOIS LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,
v.
STEPHEN BEAN, IN HIS CAPACITY AS MACON COUNTY
CLERK; AND MACON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS, AND MT. ZION COMMUNITY UNIT SCHOOL DISTRICT NO. 3, MACON COUNTY MOSQUITO ABATEMENT DISTRICT, MACON COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT, MACON COUNTY MENTAL HEALTH DEPARTMENT, MACON COUNTY CONSERVATION DISTRICT, LONG CREEK TOWNSHIP, MACON COUNTY UNIVERSITY OF ILLINOIS EXTENSION, LONG CREEK FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT, DECATUR PARK DISTRICT, RICHLAND COMMUNITY COLLEGE NO. 537, SANITARY DISTRICT OF DECATUR, CITY OF DECATUR, DECATUR PUBLIC LIBRARY, EASTGATE COMMONS TAX INCREMENT FINANCING DISTRICT, AND STEPHEN M. GRIMM, IN HIS CAPACITY AS MACON COUNTY TREASURER, DEFENDANTS, AND STEPHEN BEAN, IN HIS CAPACITY AS MACON COUNTY CLERK; DAYSA MILLER, IN HER CAPACITY AS MACON COUNTY SUPERVISOR OF ASSESSMENTS; AND MACON COUNTY, ILLINOIS, COUNTERPLAINTIFFS-APPELLANTS,
v.
THE CITY OF DECATUR, ILLINOIS; AND IP PLAZA, LLC,
COUNTERDEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Macon County Judge Presiding. No. 08CH110 Honorable Thomas E. Little,

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Presiding Justice Turner

PRESIDING JUSTICE TURNER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Steigmann and Knecht concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

¶ 1 In March 2008, plaintiff, IP Plaza, LLC, filed a complaint for mandamus against defendant Stephen Bean, in his capacity as Macon County clerk, to compel Bean to certify the initial equalized assessed valuation (EAV) of certain real property under the Tax Increment Allocation Redevelopment Act (TIF Act) (65 ILCS 5/11-74.4-1 through 11-74.4-11 (West 2006)) in the manner set forth in relevant City of Decatur (the City) ordinances.

¶ 2 In May 2008, Bean answered and filed a counterclaim against IP Plaza and the City, alleging the tax increment financing (TIF) district was invalid. In December 2008, Macon County (the County) filed a counterclaim against IP Plaza and the City. The City also filed a counterclaim against Bean and a third-party complaint for mandamus against Daysa Miller, the Macon County supervisor of assessments. In April 2009, the trial court dismissed the County's counterclaim based on equitable estoppel and laches. In February 2011, the court granted IP Plaza's and the City's motions for summary judgment and entered an order of mandamus.

¶ 3 On appeal, Bean, Miller, and Macon County argue the trial court erred in granting the complaint for mandamus and in denying the County's and Bean's laches defenses to the mandamus claims. We affirm.

¶ 4 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 5 A. The TIF Property

¶ 6 In 2003, Rural King, a company of farm supply stores, inquired about purchasing an abandoned Kmart building in Decatur. Nothing came of Rural King's inquiry, and the Glad Tidings Assembly of God church eventually purchased the old Kmart property in September 2004. The church requested a tax exemption for religious use. In May 2005, the Illinois Department of Revenue determined the property was tax exempt as it was in use as a church and the exemption applied for 29% of the 2004 assessment year.

¶ 7 The equalized assessed value of the building was $446,642 for the 2004 assessment year. Thereafter, and until November 14, 2006, Supervisor of Assessments Daysa Miller showed the property as having an equalized assessed valuation of $0. Miller stated this was done because "the State of Illinois requires assessors to show exempt property on their books as being exempt and having a value of $0 so that our software does not generate a tax bill."

¶ 8 In late 2005, the church began remodeling the Kmart building. Construction however was abandoned in June 2006. On June 20, 2006, the church and Lear Group, LLC, entered into an exchange agreement for the purchase of the Kmart building by Lear Group in exchange for the church's purchase of the former AmerenIP building in Decatur.

¶ 9 On June 29, 2006, IP Plaza was substituted for Lear Group as the purchaser under the exchange agreement with the church. On July 4, 2006, the church took custody of the AmerenIP building and began prayer services and cleanup activities.

¶ 10 On July 26, 2006, the City and IP Plaza entered into a redevelopment agreement respecting the Kmart/church building pursuant to the terms of the TIF Act. Therein, the City agreed to establish a TIF district for the property's commercial development by IP Plaza. The TIF district became known as the Eastgate Commons TIF District.

¶ 11 As part of establishing the TIF district and pursuant to its obligations under the redevelopment agreement, the City convened a joint review board on August 24, 2006, as required by section 11-74.4-5(b) of the TIF Act (65 ILCS 5/11-74.4-5(b) (West 2006)). Beth Ruhle, the TIF consultant, found the area in question met 6 of the 13 criteria to be designated as a TIF district. The county clerk moved for approval and stated the redevelopment site met the criteria of the TIF Act.

¶ 12 On November 6, 2006, consistent with its commitments in the redevelopment agreement, the City adopted three ordinances establishing the redevelopment plan and adopting the tax-increment financing pursuant to the TIF Act. Ordinance No. 2006-100 directed the City Clerk to "file a certified copy of this ordinance with the County Clerk of Macon County" and to "obtain a certificate from such County Clerk as to the total initial equalized assessed value 'EAV' of all taxable property in the Redevelopment Project Area." Decatur Municipal Ordinance No. 2006-100, § 5 (adopted Nov. 6, 2006). In providing the certification, the ordinance stated "the County Clerk shall use the levy year 2005 in determining such total initial EAV." (Emphasis in original.) Decatur Municipal Ordinance No. 2006-100, § 5 (adopted Nov. 6, 2006).

¶ 13 On November 14, 2006, the city clerk filed a copy of ordinance No. 2006-100 with the county clerk. That same day, Supervisor of Assessments Miller revoked the religious exemption on the Kmart/church property. On November 21, 2006, the church conveyed the property to Main Street Bank and Trust as trustee. In February 2007, the bank conveyed the property to IP Plaza. The property was then remodeled as a Rural King store. The 2006 realestate tax bill from Macon County listed the fair market value of the property to be $883,968 and the equalized assessed valuation to be $294,656. A tax of $25,737.12 was assessed against the property and paid by IP Plaza.

¶ 14 In March 2007, in connection with the preparation of the tax bills for the 2006 taxes payable in 2007, County Clerk Bean certified the initial EAV of the property as $446,642. After consultation with Assistant State's Attorney Ken Boles, Bean concluded the amount was proper as it was the EAV the property had prior to its obtaining religious-use exemption status.

¶ 15 B. Court Proceedings

ΒΆ 16 In November 2007, IP Plaza filed a tax-objection complaint pursuant to sections 23-10 and 23-25 of the Property Tax Code (35 ILCS 200/23-10, 23-25 (West 2006)). IP Plaza claimed the supervisor of assessments incorrectly revoked the property's exempt status, and made it retroactive to June 1, 2006, based on her belief the property was no longer being used for religious purposes. IP Plaza argued the supervisor's belief of nonexempt use was factually incorrect and asked the trial court, inter alia, ...


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