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Pearson v. Village of Broadview

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

June 19, 2018

JIM PEARSON, Plaintiff,



         Plaintiff Jim Pearson brought this action against Defendants Village of Broadview, Mayor Sherman C. Jones, Building Commissioner David Upshaw, and the Village Board of Trustees asserting two claims titled Procedural Due Process (Count I) and Abuse of Governmental Power (Count II). Before the Court is Defendants' motion to dismiss both claims. For the reasons explained below, Defendants' motion is granted in part and denied in part.


         A Rule 12(b)(6) motion challenges the sufficiency of the complaint. See Hallinan v. Fraternal Order of Police of Chicago Lodge No. 7, 570 F.3d 811, 820 (7th Cir. 2009). Under Rule 8(a)(2), a complaint must include “a short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.” Fed.R.Civ.P. 8(a)(2). Under the federal notice pleading standards, a plaintiff's “factual allegations must be enough to raise a right to relief above the speculative level.” Bell Atlantic v. Twombly, 550 U.S. 544, 555 (2007). “In evaluating the sufficiency of the complaint, [courts] view it in the light most favorable to the plaintiff, taking as true all well-pleaded factual allegations and making all possible inferences from the allegations in the plaintiff's favor.” AnchorBank, FSB v. Hofer, 649 F.3d 610, 614 (7th Cir. 2011). A defendant may raise the statute of limitations in a motion to dismiss if “the allegations of the complaint itself set forth everything necessary to satisfy the affirmative defense.” United States v. Lewis, 411 F.3d 838, 842 (7th Cir. 2005).


         This action arises out of Defendants' refusal to grant Pearson a renewal of his 6b tax classification for a property located in Broadview, IL. R. 26, Second Amended Complaint, ¶ 5. The 6b tax classification is designed to encourage industrial development and increase employment opportunities throughout Cook County by offering a real estate tax incentive for the development and rehabilitation of industrial structures. Cook County Assessor's Office, Class 6b Eligibility Bulletin (2018) (“Eligibility Bulletin”).[1] The 6b tax classification may be renewed by filing a renewal application and by submitting a certified copy of the resolution or ordinance by the municipality in which the property sits stating that it supports and consents to the renewal of the tax incentive. Id. at 4.

         Pearson has owned the commercial lot at issue since January 14, 2005. R. 26 ¶ 5. He submitted an application for the initial 6b tax classification to Defendants on April 14, 2005. Id. ¶ 6. Defendants approved and granted the application on June 20, 2005. Id. ¶ 7. In April 2014, Pearson submitted a renewal application to the Cook County Assessor's office. Id. ¶ 8. A few months later on September 19, 2014, Pearson sent a letter to Defendants notifying them of the renewal application. Id. ¶ 9. Pearson requested a board meeting for consideration of the resolution supporting the renewal. Id. At some point after he sent the letter, the Defendants refused to grant him a hearing, and told him that the “Village of Broadview would no longer be issuing 6B resolutions to anyone.” Id. ¶ 20.

         Around the same time, Pearson attempted to sell the property. On September 15, 2015, he received a letter of intent to purchase the property for $2, 750, 000. R. 6-1, Ex. E. The prospective buyer visited the Village of Broadview's municipal offices to inquire about the renewal application, but was told by the building commissioner, defendant Upshaw, that a $50, 000 campaign contribution “would make the process go much smoother.” R. 26 ¶ 21. The potential buyer rescinded her offer. Id. ¶ 22. Pearson then received an offer from a new potential purchaser, Graymills Corporation, on February 10, 2016 for $2, 350, 000. Id. ¶ 23. Shortly thereafter, Pearson discovered that Defendants had approved Graymills' 6b application, allegedly before the purchase was completed. Id. ¶ 24. It is not clear from the complaint when Graymills legally obtained the property.


         Pearson brings two claims. First, he alleges Defendants violated his constitutional right to procedural due process by not providing him a hearing for the renewal of the 6b tax classification. R. 26 ¶ 15. Second, he alleges Defendants abused their governmental power by approving Graymills' resolution for the 6b classification. Id. ¶ 24. Defendants moved to dismiss, arguing the statute of limitations on his first claim has expired and that Pearson has failed to state a claim under either count. R. 14.

         I. Statute of Limitations

         Federal courts adopt the forum state's statute of limitations for deprivation of constitutional rights claims. See Wilson v. Garcia, 471 U.S. 261, 261-62 (1985). A deprivation of constitutional rights is litigated pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 1983. See Nelson v. Campbell, 541 U.S. 637, 643 (2004). The limitations period for § 1983 claims is based in state law, and the statute of limitations for § 1983 actions in Illinois is two years. See O'Gorman v. City of Chicago, 777 F.3d 885, 889 (7th Cir. 2015). But “the date at which the claim accrues and thus starts the running of the limitations period is a matter of federal law, and generally occurs when a plaintiff knows the fact and the cause of an injury.” Id.

         Here, the complaint does not allege when Defendants denied Pearson a hearing on the 6b tax classification. The Court can assume that the failure occurred sometime after September 19, 2014, when Pearson sent a request to Defendants for consideration of the renewal application. It is not clear from the complaint, however, that Pearson was aware of Defendants' failure to grant a hearing before September 2015, when the first buyer rescinded its offer because of Defendants' failure to grant the renewal application and their alleged solicitation of a bribe. See R. 26 ¶ 16. Defendants cite General Auto Service Station v. City of Chicago, 2004 WL 442636 (N.D. Ill. March 9, 2004) in support of their argument that the statute of limitations began running in September 2014, when Pearson submitted a letter to Defendants notifying them of the renewal application. In General Auto Service, the plaintiff submitted a non-conforming use permit application in 1995 after receiving a notice that it was in violation of a zoning ordinance. It did not receive a response, but did receive a second notice of violation in August 1997. Id. at *5. The application was then denied, the plaintiff appealed, and the decision to deny the application was affirmed. The plaintiff contended that the date the statute of limitations began running was the date of the final judgment affirming the denial. Id. at *7. The court disagreed and held that the statute began to run when the plaintiff first became aware of the denial through the second notice of violation, not when he continued to feel the denial's “ill effects” through later administrative proceedings. Id. at *8. Here, however, there are no allegations that Pearson became aware of the denial of the renewal before September 2015. Unlike in General Auto Service, Pearson does not allege that he received a letter or other notification from Defendants informing him of the denial. Taking the facts in the light most favorable to Pearson, it is plausible he first became aware of the alleged violation in September 2015, when the buyer rescinded its offer because of the denial of the 6b tax classification. An act giving rise to a claim occurs when the plaintiff “knows or should know that his [] constitutional right has been violated.” Lawshe v. Simpson, 16 F.3d 1475, 1478 (7th Cir. 1994). Accordingly, Pearson's complaint is not untimely on its face.

         II. ...

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