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A.D. v. City of Springfield

United States District Court, C.D. Illinois, Springfield Division

August 2, 2017

A.D., by his guardian and next friend, MARY B. VALENCIA, and INDIVIDUAL ADVOCACY GROUP, INC., an Illinois not-for-profit corporation, Plaintiffs,
v.
CITY OF SPRINGFIELD, Defendant.

          OPINION

          RICHARD MILLS, United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs' Motion for Preliminary Injunction is pending.

         The Court heard oral argument on the motion on July 13, 2017, and is now ready to rule.

         But first, the background.

         I. INTRODUCTION

         On December 22, 2016, the Plaintiffs filed a three-count complaint alleging the Defendant City of Springfield (“the City”) had discriminated against the Plaintiffs on the basis of their disabilities in violation of the federal Fair Housing Amendment Act of 1988 (“FHA”), 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601-3631; the Americans with Disabilities Act (“ADA”), 42 U.S.C. § 12131, et seq. and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1974, 29 U.S.C. § 794(a).

         On January 11, 2017, the Plaintiffs filed a motion for a preliminary injunction seeking an order enjoining the City from enforcing an alleged discriminatory ordinance and evicting the residents of 2328 Noble Ave. in Springfield (“the Noble home”) while this litigation is pending. This action was brought after Christine and Robyn Hovey, the owners of the Noble home, were denied a conditional permitted use (“CPU”) to allow the owners and the Plaintiffs to operate a family care residence. The City claimed that a family care residence at the Noble home would have violated spacing requirements of the Springfield Zoning Code Section 155.03.

         The complaint states that Plaintiff A.D. is a 62-year old adult who is developmentally disabled and handicapped and has been determined to be incompetent. He ambulates in a wheelchair and is almost totally nonverbal. A.D. brings this action by next friend and legal guardian Mary B. Valencia, his sister, and they both reside in Sangamon County, Illinois. The other Plaintiff, Individual Advocacy Group, Inc., (“IAG”), is a not-for-profit Illinois corporation with its principal place of business in Romeoville, Illinois. IAG provides in-home support for individuals with disabilities. In March 2014, IAG arranged for housing for A.D. and two of its other clients, J.M. and J.D., after the property owners renovated the home to make it fully accessible to the mobility-impaired residents.

         Defendant City of Springfield is a city within the Central District of Illinois that is organized under the laws of Illinois and is a body politic and corporate, in addition to being a public entity within the meaning of the ADA.

         The Noble home is a one-story ranch house that resembles other residences in the neighborhood. From the exterior, there is nothing that would indicate individuals with disabilities reside in the home. There are no signs outside the house and the staff who work there do not drive vehicles that would identify the home as a place where people with disabilities live. There are generally no more than one or two staff cars at the premises, except during a shift change when there may be three. There have not been any police, fire or emergency calls at the home since March 2014.

         The Plaintiffs allege the denial of the CPU constitutes a violation of the aforementioned federal statutes. The Plaintiffs seek a preliminary injunction to prevent the City from taking any enforcement action against the residents during the pendency of the lawsuit.[1]

         The City has not begun enforcement or taken any other action to remove the Plaintiffs or other residents of the Noble home. The City contends that its zoning ordinance with respect to group homes does not violate any federal statutes either on its face or intent.

         II. BACKGROUND

         A. Zoning Code

         Under Section 155.001 of the City's Zoning Code (“the Code”), a “family” is defined as: “One or more persons each related to one another by blood, marriage, or adoption, or is a group of not more than five persons not all so related occupying a single dwelling unit which is not a boardinghouse or lodging house as defined in this section.”[2] Section 155.001 defines a “family care residence” as:

         A single dwelling unit occupied on a relatively permanent basis in a family-like environment by a group of no more than six unrelated persons with disabilities, plus paid professional support staff provided by a sponsoring agency, either living with the residents on a 24-hour basis or present whenever residents with disabilities are present at the dwelling.

         A residence that is deemed a “family care residence” is subject to additional restrictions under the Code. Section 155.053 applies only to family care and group community residences and states:

In order to ensure that community residences, which operate more effectively in residential environments, do not adversely affect those environments through over concentration or improper operation, no facility shall be operated in a residence district unless: a) It is located upon a zoning lot which is more than 600 feet from the property line of any other such facility.

Section 155.211.1 of the Code provides that any family care or group community residence that is not in compliance with the 600-foot spacing requirement “may be eligible” for a CPU after establishing the following:

(a) Petitioners shall demonstrate that the proposed location and use will not have any adverse impact upon residents of nearby facilities when located within 600 ...

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