Articles Posted in Zoning, Planning & Land Use

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In 2006 Conway contracted to sell land in Broadview to Donahue, who assigned the contract to Chicago Joe’s Tea Room, LLC. Chicago Joe’s sole manager applied for the required special-use permit. Broadview denied the application in 2007. The land sale contract never closed and the planned strip club never opened. The LLC and Conway filed suit in 2007 alleging that Broadview violated the First Amendment. Broadview amended its ordinances multiple times during the lawsuit. One amendment led District Judge Gottschall, to conclude that Broadview’s amendment to its adult-use setback ordinance was “aimed solely at Chicago Joe’s.” After the case was transferred to Judge Lee, the parties litigated renewed summary judgment motions. Judge Lee granted Broadview summary judgment on Chicago Joe’s declaratory judgment and injunction claims, but denied summary judgment on the damages claim. The Seventh Circuit concluded that the claim for injunctive relief that established interlocutory appellate jurisdiction is actually moot, and affirmed its dismissal. At every stage of the process, Chicago Joe’s has proposed a use of property prohibited by then-current local law, so it has no vested rights. Since 2007, Chicago Joe’s has proposed to use the property in a way prohibited by Illinois statute, without challenging that statute. View "Chicago Joe's Tea Room, LLC v. Village of Broadview" on Justia Law

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In 1995, Orchard purchased the Warmke Parcel, 13 acres of wetlands, for residential development. Orchard requested a determination from the Army Corps of Engineers that the wetlands were not jurisdictional “waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act, 33 U.S.C. 1251(a). Before 2015, the Corps defined waters of the United States to include waters “subject to the ebb and flow of the tide,” “rivers” that could be used for interstate recreation or commerce, “tributaries” of such waters, and “wetlands adjacent to” other waters of the United States, including tributaries. The Warmke wetlands are surrounded by residential development. The closest navigable water, Little Calumet River, is 11 miles away. In between the Warmke wetlands and Little Calumet River are man‐made ditches, sewer pipes, and Midlothian Creek—a tributary of the Little Calumet River. The Warmke wetlands drain, via sewer pipes, to Midlothian Creek. While the Warmke issue was pending, the Supreme Court decided that a wetland’s adjacency to a tributary of a navigable‐in‐fact water is alone insufficient to make the wetland a water of the United States, “the Corps’ jurisdiction over [such] wetlands depends upon the existence of a significant nexus between the wetlands in question and navigable waters in the traditional sense.” The Seventh Circuit reversed the Corps’ claim of jurisdiction, finding that the Corps has not provided substantial evidence of a significant nexus to navigable‐in‐fact waters. View "Orchard Hill Building Co. v. United States Army Corps of Engineers" on Justia Law

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HH intended to open an Indianapolis retail establishment, “Hustler Hollywood,” entered a 10-year lease, and applied for sign and building permits. HH’s proposed store was located in a zoning district that prohibited “adult entertainment businesses.” The Department of Business and Neighborhood Services determined that HH was an adult entertainment business; the Board of Zoning Appeals affirmed. HH sought a declaratory judgment that the ordinance violated its First and Fourteenth Amendment rights. The district court denied HH’s motion for a preliminary injunction. On interlocutory appeal with respect to its as-applied First Amendment claim, the Seventh Circuit affirmed. HH’s speech has not been silenced or suppressed; HH has only been told that it cannot operate in a particular commercial district. The ordinance is “content-neutral” and the city’s interest in reducing the secondary effects of adult businesses is a sufficient or substantial interest. Application of the ordinance resulted only in an incidental restriction on HH’s speech in a particular location. HH presented no evidence that officials displayed any bias or censorial intent in their determinations; the city was under no constitutional obligation to inspect the property or allow HH to open conditionally before making its determination. View "HH-Indianapolis, LLC v. Consolidated City of Indianapolis" on Justia Law

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Thorncreek, a Park Forest townhouse complex, applied to the Village for a permit to use a vacant townhouse as a business office but began to conduct its business from the townhouse without a permit. The Village cited it for zoning violations and operating without the required permit. The Village later filed suit to halt the zoning and operating violations and to redress certain building-code violations. Thorncreek counterclaimed against the Village and 10 officials, claiming civil-rights violations under 42 U.S.C. 1981, 1983, 1985, and 1986 and the Illinois Civil Rights Act. Two Thorncreek "areas" went into foreclosure. Thorncreek blamed the Village’s regulatory overreach in denying a business license, interfering with business operations, refusing to grant a conditional use permit, failing to issue a certificate of occupancy, and unequally enforcing a building-code provision requiring electrical upgrades, based on irrational animus against Clapper, the owner, and racial bias against its black residents. A jury found the Village and Village Manager Mick liable for a class-of-one equal-protection violation; found Mick and Kerestes, the director of community development, liable for conspiracy (section 1985(3)); otherwise rejected the claims, and awarded $2,014,000 in compensatory damages. Because the jury rejected the race-based equal-protection claim, the judge struck the verdict against Kerestes. The judge awarded $430,999.25 in fees and $44,844.33 in costs. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, rejecting challenges to the judgment against Mick, the admission of evidence concerning Clapper’s wealth, and the admission of Thorncreek’s financial records. View "Thorncreek Apartments I, LLC v. Village of Park Forest" on Justia Law

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Springfield’s zoning code allows “family care residence[s],” defined 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. Such residences must be “located upon a zoning lot which is more than 600 feet from the property line of any other such facility.” IAG is a non-profit organization that provides services in Community Integrated Living Arrangements in residences rented by disabled clients. The Noble home, in a Springfield residential district that allows family care residences, resembles other neighborhood dwellings. After its owners completed significant renovations, three disabled individuals moved into the Noble home. Unbeknownst to the owners, IAG, or its clients, Sparc had been operating a family care residence across the street for 12 years. The property lines are separated by 157 feet. The city notified the owners that the Noble residents would be evicted unless they obtained a Conditional Permitted Use. Their application was denied. The Seventh Circuit affirmed the entry of a preliminary injunction to prevent eviction, finding that plaintiffs possessed a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits in their suit under the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601–31, Americans with Disabilities Act, 42 U.S.C. 12101–213, and the Rehabilitation Act, 29 U.S.C. 794(a). View "Valencia v. City of Springfield" on Justia Law

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The Sisters own Blue Island buildings: a convent, a church, and a boarding school that closed long ago. The buildings were used as a public high school until 2009. Affordable wanted to use the buildings as a recovery home, providing lodging, meals, job training, religious outreach, and other services to adult men fighting drug or alcohol addiction. The Sisters agreed; the few remaining nuns would continue to occupy the convent and the Sisters would obtain rental income. Occupancy would prevent vandalism. With the mayor’s approval, Affordable moved 14 staff members into the buildings. The city required installation of a sprinkler system in the sleeping rooms. Affordable had already moved in 73 men without the required special‐use permit. Affordable filed suit. The court denied a preliminary injunction. The residents vacated. Four subsequently suffered fatal overdoses. Affordable obtained a recovery house license from the Illinois Department of Human Services, which does not require sprinklers in buildings fewer than four stories high. The court granted Affordable partial summary judgment on preemption grounds but rejected claims under the Illinois Religious Freedom Restoration Act that would have been entitled Affordable to damages and attorneys’ fees. The Seventh Circuit affirmed. Affordable did not argue that the sprinkler requirement would have substantially burdened its religious exercise even if it had complied. Affordable was not excluded from Blue Island or even required to install a sprinkler system. View "Affordable Recovery Housing v. City of Blue Island" on Justia Law

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For 60 years, a butcher shop operated on property in Black Earth that is zoned for commercial use, as a legal nonconforming use. In 2001, BEM purchased the property. After 2009, the volume and frequency of slaughter increased. By 2011, neighbors were complaining about increased traffic, trucks blocking the road, livestock noise, foul odors, improper storage of animal parts, and the presence of offal, blood, and animal waste in the streets. Steers escaped from the facility three times and had to be shot dead on Village streets. In 2013, the Village held several public meetings, and, because citations had no effect on BEM’s behavior, ordered BEM to propose an acceptable plan for relocating its slaughter activities. BEM did not relocate. After several delays, the Village threatened litigation. As a result of that threat, the USDA refused to guarantee a bank loan to BEM. BEM lost its financing, closed, and sued the Village and board members. The Seventh Circuit affirmed summary judgment for the defendants. Even if the threat of litigation could, itself, constitute a due process violation and were a sufficiently direct cause of BEM’s alleged deprivations, there is no evidence that the process accorded to BEM was inadequate. Procedural due process generally requires only “notice and an opportunity to be heard.” View "Black Earth Meat Mkt., LLC v. Village of Black Earth" on Justia Law

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In order to receive federal housing funds (42 U.S.C. 2000d; the Fair Housing Act, 42 U.S.C. 3601; and “42 U.S.C. 608(e)(5), 5304(b)(2), and 12705(b)(15)), the City of Chicago must certify that it is in compliance with federal requirements related to reducing the city’s admitted racial segregation. Hanna filed a qui tam suit, alleging that the city violated the False Claims Act because its policies, particularly “aldermanic privilege” and strategic zoning of relatively wealthy neighborhoods, have actually increased segregation, making its certifications false. Under “aldermanic privilege,” the City grants each alderman the “full authority to determine whether and where affordable, multifamily rental housing will be built and renovated in the ward.” The Seventh Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the complaint. Hanna did not allege the circumstances of the purported fraud with sufficient particularity to satisfy Federal Rule of Procedure 9(b). Hanna apparently had no insider information. He did not allege the “time, place, … and the method by which the misrepresentation was communicated” to him. Hanna’s complaint gave no information about which regulatory provisions Hanna thinks the city violated; it does not draw a link between the statutes Hanna cited and any particular alleged false certification. View "Hanna v. City of Chicago" on Justia Law

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Pike County's Sny Island Levee Drainage District was organized in 1880 to protect from Mississippi River flooding and runoff. The Kansas City Southern and the Norfolk Southern operate main line railways over the District's flood plain. Illinois law permits the District to assess properties within its territory in order to maintain the levees. A new method, ​adopted in 2009, purported to calculate assessments based on the benefits the District conferred on each property, rather than based on acreage. After the Seventh Circuit enjoined use of the methodology, the District discontinued collecting annual assessments and implemented a one-time additional assessment, 70 ILCS 605/5. The District filed an assessment roll based on new benefit calculations, identifying the tax on KC as $91,084.59 and on Norfolk as $102,976.18, if paid in one installment..The Railroads again filed suit, alleging that the District used a formula that discriminated against them in violation of the Railroad Revitalization and Regulatory Reform Act, 49 U.S.C. 11501. The Seventh Circuit affirmed judgment in favor of the District. The court rejected an argument that the comparison class against which their assessment should be measured is all other District properties, instead of the narrower class of commercial and industrial properties used by the district court. There was no clear error in the court’s assessment of a “battle of the experts.” View "Kansas City S. Ry. v. Sny Island Levee Drainage Dist" on Justia Law

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In 2004, the Simstads, developers, began the process of seeking approval from the Lake County Plan Commission for a proposed subdivision, “Deer Ridge South.” In late 2006, the Commission approved the plans. The Simstads believed that approval was delayed, at great cost to them, because of their support in 1996 for commission member Scheub’s opponent in the County Commissioner primary race. They sued Commission members and Lake County, alleging violations of the First and Fourteenth Amendments, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), and various Indiana laws. A jury ruled in favor of the defendants. The Seventh Circuit affirmed, first noting that a defense of claim preclusion, based on earlier state proceedings, had been waived. The district court did not abuse its discretion in allowing a belated answer to the amended complaint or in allowing the defendants to withdraw their deemed admissions. Rejecting an argument that approval was a ministerial act, the court stated that determination of whether a project meets the ordinances, with or without waivers, involves some degree of discretion. The court noted the absence of evidence of animus. View "Simstad v. Scheub" on Justia Law