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American Islamic Center v. City of Des Plaines

United States District Court, N.D. Illinois, Eastern Division

March 24, 2014

AMERICAN ISLAMIC CENTER, Plaintiff,
v.
CITY OF DES PLAINES, JAMES BROOKMAN, MICHAEL CHAREWICZ, PATRICIA HAUGEBERG, DICK SAYAD, and MARK WALSTEN, in their individual capacities, Defendants

For American Islamic Center, Plaintiff: Anthony J. Peraica, LEAD ATTORNEY, Jennifer Marie Hill, Anthony J. Peraica & Associates, Chicago, IL; Kevin R. Vodak, Council on American-Islamic Relations, Chicago Chapter, Chicago, IL.

For City of DesPlaines, James Brookman, Michael Charewicz, Patricia Haugeberg, Dick Sayad, Mark Walsten, in their individual capacities, Defendants: Ellen Kornichuk Emery, LEAD ATTORNEY, Julie A. Tappendorf, Lucy B. Bednarek, Ancel, Glink, Diamond, Bush, DiCianni & Krafthefer, P.C., Chicago, IL.

Page 911

MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

MATTHEW F. KENNELLY, United States District Judge.

American Islamic Center (AIC), a religious institution incorporated under the Illinois Not-For-Profit Corporation Act, has sued the city of Des Plaines and five members of its city council, namely, James Brookman, Michael Charewicz, Patricia Haugeberg, Dick Sayad, and Mark Walsten.

On February 6, 2013, AIC contracted to buy certain property on the condition that

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Des Plaines would adopt a zoning map amendment that would allow AIC to use the property for religious and educational activities. On July 15, 2013, the five city council members named as defendants voted against the amendment, outvoting three other city council members who voted in favor of the amendment.

AIC has brought a seven-count complaint against Des Plaines and the five council members who voted against the zoning amendment. In Counts 1 and 2, AIC contends that Des Plaines violated the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc(2)(a) & (b)(1). In Count 3, AIC asserts that the defendants violated the U.S. Constitution's Free Exercise Clause. In Count 4, AIC alleges that the defendants violated the U.S. Constitution's Equal Protection Clause. Count 5 is a claim under state law challenging the zoning decision. In Count 6, AIC contends that Des Plaines violated the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act (IRFRA), 775 ILCS 35/15. In Count 7, AIC asserts that Des Plaines violated the Free Exercise Clause of the Illinois Constitution.

Defendants have moved to dismiss the complaint. When the motion was first presented for hearing, the Court orally overruled argument 4 in the motion, in which defendants argued that Counts 2 and 4 were insufficiently pleaded. In addition, defendants later withdrew argument 3 in their motion, in which they sought dismissal of Counts 1 (RLUIPA), 3 (Free Exercise Clause), 6 (IRFRA), and 7 (Illinois Free Exercise Clause) on the ground that AIC failed to allege a substantial burden on the right to free exercise of religion.

In this decision, the Court considers defendants' remaining arguments, namely that: 1) the city council members are entitled to absolute legislative immunity, 2) the Tort Immunity Act bars recovery under Count 6 (IRFRA), and 3) the Illinois statute that AIC cites in its state-law claim seeking review of the zoning decision, 65 ILCS 5/11-13-25, does not provide an independent basis for a cause of action (Count 5). For the reasons stated below, the Court concludes that: 1) the city council members are entitled to absolute legislative immunity, 2) the Tort Immunity Act does not bar recovery under Count 6, and 3) AIC may challenge the city's zoning ordinance under Illinois law even if section 11-13-25 does not provide an independent cause of action.

Background

The Court has taken the following facts largely from AIC's complaint. The Court accepts all well-pleaded facts as true and draws all reasonable inferences from those facts in AIC's favor. See Golden v. State Farm Mut. Auto. Ins. Co., No. 12-3901, 745 F.3d 252, 2014 WL 930806, at *2 (7th Cir. Mar. 11, 2014).

AIC provides religious and educational services to the Muslim community at various facilities in the Chicago metropolitan area. Since March 2011, AIC has been searching for a permanent facility of its own to conduct these activities. On February 6, 2013, AIC contracted to buy certain property in Des Plaines, Illinois. AIC alleges that no other property in the city was suitable to serve as a permanent location for its activities. The property was considered an M-2 district, meaning that it was zoned only for general manufacturing activity. As a result, AIC's contract depended on the city adopting a zoning map amendment that would convert the status of the property to an I-1 district, in which religious and educational activities are permitted. On May 2, 2013, AIC proposed such an amendment to the Des Plaines Zoning Map Administrator.

Page 913

On June 10, 2013, the Des Plaines Plan Commission held a public hearing on AIC's proposal. Finding that it would neither significantly harm traffic and parking patterns nor require the expansion of public facilities, the commission recommended that the city council adopt AIC's proposed amendment.

On July 15, 2013, the city council declined to approve AIC's zoning map amendment. The vote was five to three against approval, with the five city council members named as defendants voting no and three other city council members voting yes. On or around August 5, 2013, the city council approved a resolution denying AIC's amendment, with the votes aligned the same as before. The city council did not issue any findings of fact, nor did City of Des Plaines Zoning Ordinance § 3.7-1 require it to do so.

Under the Des Plaines zoning ordinance, the zoning map should be amended " in light of changed conditions or changes in public policy." City of Des Plaines Zoning Ord. ยง 3.7-1. Section 3.7-5 of the ordinance requires the city council, when considering an amendment, to take into account, among other things, whether the amendment is compatible with the current conditions and character of existing developments in the area and whether the amendment would harm ...


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