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Atlas v. Village of Glencoe

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

November 18, 2019

JANE ATLAS and MARGARET SCHWALBACH, Plaintiffs,
v.
VILLAGE OF GLENCOE, an Illinois Municipal Corporation, Defendant.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION AND ORDER

          Virginia M. Kendall United States District Judge

         Plaintiffs Jane Atlas and her daughter, Margaret Schwalbach claim that Defendant, Village of Glencoe (the “Village”), violated Plaintiffs' constitutional rights by failing to grant an emergency work permit and to provide consideration for an easement in connection with a deteriorating ravine which threatened Ms. Atlas's property. Plaintiffs brought a five-count complaint in state court, alleging two state-law claims (Counts I and II) and three federal claims (Counts III-V). (Dkt. 1). Given the federal claims, the Village removed the case to federal court. (Id.). This Court granted the Village's request to delay its answer to the state-law claims pending the resolution of the Village's motion to dismiss the federal claims. (Dkt. 17).

         Plaintiffs bring their federal claims against the Village under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983, 1988, for deprivation of their substantive due process rights (Count III) and equal protection rights (Count IV and V). The Village has moved to dismiss these claims, and for the following reasons, the Village's motion is granted.

         BACKGROUND

         The following factual allegations are taken from Plaintiffs' complaint and are assumed true for purposes of this motion. W. Bend Mut. Ins. Co. v. Schumacher, 844 F.3d 670, 675 (7th Cir. 2016).

         Ms. Atlas previously owned and resided in a home in the Village (the “residence”). (Dkt. 11-1 ¶ 6). The residence was situated on property Ms. Atlas owned. (Id.) The residence overlooked and was adjacent to a ravine, part of which was within the boundaries of Ms. Atlas's property. (Id. ¶ 7).

         The Village constructed stormwater management facilities designed to empty stormwater from the Village streets and surrounding areas into a stream at the bottom of the ravine. (Id. ¶¶ 10, 11). At some point before May 2017, the Village became aware that a portion of the stormwater system near the residence had been damaged and had, in part, collapsed. (Id. ¶ 12). The collapsed drain and damaged system caused stormwater to jet toward the slope of the ravine on Ms. Atlas's property, causing erosion which “undermine[d] the stability” of the ravine. (Id. ¶¶ 13, 15, 16). The Village, however, did not inform Ms. Atlas of the damaged system, and as of Spring 2018, the Village had still not repaired it. (Id. ¶¶ 14-15).

         In early May 2018, Ms. Atlas listed her residence and property for sale, and, on May 14, 2018, she signed a contract with a purchaser to sell the residence and property for $527, 000. (Id. ¶¶ 8, 9). On May 21, 2018, heavy rains led to significant erosion of the ravine on Ms. Atlas's property. (Id. ¶ 16). On May 22, 2018, a home inspection by the purchaser revealed the significant erosion of the ravine and that the erosion had undermined the foundation of the residence. (Id. ¶ 17). The contract was cancelled immediately, as was the listing. (Id. ¶¶ 18, 19). Ms. Atlas contacted several expert consultants, who determined that the erosion was due to the damaged stormwater system and collapsed drain. (Id. ¶ 20).

         On May 30, 2018, Ms. Atlas, Ms. Schwalbach, and David Mau, the Village Director of Public Works, met at Ms. Atlas's property. (Id. ¶ 21). Mr. Mau indicated the Village would address the defect and would seek an easement from Ms. Atlas to access the ravine. (Id. ¶ 21). On June 26, 2018, Ms. Atlas and Ms. Schwalbach met with Mr. Mau and Village Engineer, Anna Kesler, at the Village Hall regarding the damage to the ravine and the residence. (Id. ¶ 22). Mr. Mau and Ms. Kesler told Ms. Atlas and Ms. Schwalbach that the Village had been aware of the problem for some time and that funds had been approved to make necessary repairs to the damaged system. (Id. ¶ 22). Ms. Atlas requested Village assistance in addressing the damage. (Id. ¶ 23). The Village offered no specific assistance but again requested an easement on Ms. Atlas's property to perform repairs. (Id. ¶ 23). In response, Ms. Atlas asked the Village to stabilize the part of the ravine on her property. (Id. ¶ 24). The Village declined, stating that it would not offer her consideration for the easement and that its repairs would be limited to the immediate area surrounding the damaged part of the system and the collapsed drain. (Id. ¶ 24).

         Heavy rains continued to cause damage to the ravine and the residence, and on June 27, 2018, Ms. Schwalbach discovered a crack in the foundation of the residence. (Id. ¶¶ 25, 26). On June 29, 2018, both Mr. Mau and Ms. Kesler observed the damage to the residence and property. (Id. ¶ 27). The next day, Mr. Mau acknowledged that, to prevent further damage, Ms. Atlas would need to undertake temporary shoring of the ravine on her property. (Id. ¶ 28). Mr. Mau, however, did not state what, if anything, the Village would do to repair the damage caused by the stormwater system. (Id. ¶ 28).

         On July 19, 2018, Ms. Atlas and Ms. Schwalbach appeared before the Village Board of Trustees seeking assistance in correcting the problems with the property and residence. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30). At the meeting, Ms. Atlas and Ms. Schwalbach openly criticized the Village and its staff for their lack of responsiveness to the damage caused to Ms. Atlas's residence and property. (Id. ¶¶ 29-30). After the meeting, the Village again asked Ms. Atlas about the easement, but still did not offer her any consideration. (Id. ¶ 32). Nor did the Village take any action to repair the damaged system or to stabilize Ms. Atlas's property. (Id. ¶ 32).

         Deterioration of the ravine, property, and residence continued, and Plaintiffs were forced to vacate. (Id. ¶ 34). At that point, Ms. Atlas contracted to have emergency shoring work done. (Id. ¶ 35). On July 26, 2018, Ms. Atlas told Ms. Kesler about the emergency work and Ms. Kesler gave Ms. Atlas a permit form for the emergency work and a copy of the Village's Steep Slope Regulations, “promising that the Village would expedite any permit review for the [e]mergency [w]ork.” (Id. ¶ 36).

         On August 2, 2018, Ms. Atlas filed the emergency permit application and contractors began work on her property. (Id. ¶ 37). But the work was short lived- instead of processing the permit, the Village placed a stop work order on the shoring. (Id. ¶ 38). The Village required that Ms. Atlas supplement the emergency application with information she asserts is typically required only for a non-emergency application. (Id. ¶ 42). Still, the Village sought an easement yet declined to provide consideration for it. (Id. ¶ 39). Without the necessary work on the ravine, damage to Ms. Atlas's property continued. (Id. ¶ 40).

         In mid-August 2018, Ms. Atlas and Ms. Schwalbach attended yet another Village Board meeting, again publicly criticizing the Village, this time publicly calling the Village Manager a liar when he claimed ...


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