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Hahn v. County Of Kane

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Second District

May 31, 2013

MARJORIE C. HAHN, Successor Trustee to Robert C. Hahn, Trustee Under Trust Agreement Dated November 13, 1998, Plaintiff and Counterdefendant-Appellant and Cross-Appellee,
v.
THE COUNTY OF KANE and THE CITY OF ST. CHARLES, Defendants-Appellees (Internal Combustion, LLC, Defendant and Counterplaintiff-Appellee and Cross-Appellant).

Appeal from the Circuit Court of Kane County.No. 10-MR-277 Honorable Thomas E. Mueller, Judge, Presiding.

Presiding Justice Burke and Justice Birkett concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

McLAREN JUSTICE

¶ 1 Plaintiff, Marjorie C. Hahn, successor trustee of the Robert C. Hahn Trust, dated November 13, 1998, [1] (collectively, Hahn) appeals from the trial court's orders (1) finding in favor of defendant Internal Combustion, LLC (IC), on its affirmative defense of waiver; (2) finding in favor of defendant the City of St. Charles (City) on its affirmative defenses of waiver and estoppel, and adequate remedy at law; and (3) entering judgment in favor of all defendants based on those findings. IC cross-appeals the orders of the trial court finding against IC on its affirmative defenses of laches and unclean hands. We affirm.

¶ 2 I. BACKGROUND

¶ 3 This case arose from IC's intended expansion and use of the County of Kane's (the County) storm water detention facility, located on an easement on land owned by Hahn, for the storm water drainage and detention needs of IC's auto dealership near the intersection of Randall Road and Route 64 in St. Charles. In 2005, Hahn conveyed to the County (in addition to a strip of land in fee simple and some temporary easements) an exclusive and permanent easement on approximately 3.2 acres of Hahn's property for "storm water drainage, retention, detention and conveyance, and all things appurtenant thereto." The permanent easement extended to the "respective heirs, successors and assigns" of Hahn and the County. Later that year, Hahn entered into an agreement to sell some nearby property to Resnick Acquisition Corp., the predecessor-in-interest of IC (collectively IC), which planned to open an auto dealership. IC applied to the City for a special use permit in January 2006, seeking to operate "One or more new auto dealerships" on the property, which was currently zoned for "Limited Manufacturing." Hahn, by James Cooke, the trust's attorney and authorized agent, signed the application as "Record Owner." The sale of the property closed in December 2006, but the next several years were spent planning, financing, and obtaining permits. Meanwhile, in 2006, the County and the City began negotiations involving an intergovernmental agreement (IGA) regarding improvements to Randall Road north from Route 64, including the expansion of the County's storm water detention facility. The IGA was finalized in November 2006. Among other things, the IGA required the County to construct on the Hahn property a storm water detention facility with a capacity of 11 acre-feet. The County agreed to permit the City to expand the capacity to 16.6 acre-feet in the future "if adjacent development" desired to manage its storm water with a facility on the encumbered property. Such adjacent development would be allowed to utilize up to 4 acre-feet of the expansion, while 1.6 acre-feet would be reserved for the County. The City agreed to pay for such expansion of the facility and to maintain the facility "at its sole cost and expense."

¶ 4 In May 2010, construction of the auto dealership began, along with expansion of the storm water detention facility. In June 2010, Hahn filed a complaint for declaratory judgment and other relief and a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) and a preliminary injunction, seeking to enjoin the expansion of the storm water detention facility.[2] The trial court denied the request for a TRO, and IC filed a counterclaim against Hahn. Hahn subsequently filed a three-count amended complaint seeking injunctive relief and the prevention of the use of the property for detention of storm water from the IC property. Defendants all filed answers and raised various affirmative defenses, including laches, waiver, unclean hands, failure to exhaust administrative remedies, and adequate remedy at law. Following a bench trial, the trial court found in favor of defendants on all three counts of Hahn's amended complaint, finding that the easement was "available not only to Kane County, as grantee, but also to the county's heirs, successors and assigns." As there were "no capacity limitations applicable to the county's assigns, there was no reason for [IC] to seek [Hahn's] approval of its use of the detention facility." The trial court also noted that the natural flow of rainwater ran from the IC property onto the encumbered Hahn property. While the trial court found that Hahn, through Cooke, was aware as early as 2007 of IC's desire to use the easement for its storm water detention but did not express opposition until 2010, the court did not base its decision on the defense of laches, nor did it make any initial finding that Hahn had any rights that were waived or forfeited by laches. The court did not even address any of the other defenses. Hahn appealed, and this court reversed, concluding that the trial court erred in entering judgment in defendants' favor based on its finding that IC was an assign of the County under the easement; however, we remanded the cause for the trial court's consideration of defendants' affirmative defenses, which the trial court had not reached or considered. See Hahn v. County of Kane, 2012 IL App (2d) 110060.

¶ 5 On remand, the parties briefed and argued the issue of the affirmative defenses. On May 18, 2012, the trial court found that an adequate remedy at law existed in the form of money damages (County and City affirmative defenses) and that waiver (IC) and equitable estoppel (City) were also proven. The trial court therefore entered judgment in favor of defendants on all counts of Hahn's complaint. The court specifically made no findings regarding the defenses of failure to exhaust administrative remedies (County and City), laches (IC), and unclean hands (IC).

¶ 6 On May 31, 2012, Hahn filed a motion entitled "Motion for Ruling on Affirmative Defenses and Other Relief" in which she argued that the trial court "should have entered judgment in favor of defendants and against plaintiff with respect to the applicable affirmative defenses" that the court had found proven. Therefore, Hahn prayed that the trial court "[m]odify" its May 18 order to reflect the judgment entered with respect to each of the defendant's affirmative defenses on which it had ruled. Further, Hahn requested the court to rule on the affirmative defenses on which it had not ruled in the May 18 order. On June 7, the trial court ordered that its judgment of May 18 "stands" for the reasons stated on the record on May 18 and June 7. The trial court specifically found in favor of all three defendants on the defenses of estoppel. The court also specifically found that "the defenses failed on the failure to exhaust administrative remedies" and that "the evidence did not support finding in favor of the defendants on laches."

¶ 7 The record also contains an order dated June 14, 2012, which references "Plaintiff's and Defendant, Internal Combustion, LLC's Joint Motion for Determination of Unclean Hands Defense, " although there is no such motion in the record. In this order, the trial court found that "IC failed to prove the affirmative defense of unclean hands."

¶ 8 Hahn now appeals the trial court's orders of May 18 and June 7; IC cross-appeals from the orders of June 7 and June 14 "to the extent that the trial court rejected IC's Affirmative Defenses of Laches and Unclean Hands."

¶ 9 II. APPEAL

¶ 10 Both the City and IC asserted affirmative defenses purportedly involving waiver. The City's third affirmative defense stated as follows in relevant part:

"1. On or about January 26, 2006, Defendant Internal Combustion submitted a Special Use Application to the City to permit [sic] which was signed by Plaintiff as the owner of record.
2. At all times relevant, Plaintiff knew that the project contemplated by the special use application would utilize the Hahn Trust property ...

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