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Monday, May 21, 2012

“Gyrocopter” Special Use Permit Doesn’t Fly

The Fourth District Illinois Appellate Court recently struck down a property owner’s special use permit as unconstitutional because the use almost exclusively benefited the owner. The special use permit was for a “restricted landing area” for the owner’s “personal gyrocopter.” A “gyrocopter” is an experimental aircraft with one or two seats, an open cockpit, and a gasoline engine that typically flies at an altitude of 600 to 1,000 feet. A “restricted landing area” is essentially a private non-commercial aircraft runway. Neighbors objected to the special use permit ordinance, and the trial court held the ordinance was unconstitutional.

On the county's appeal, the Appellate Court analyzed what are known as the LaSalle and Sinclair factors. First, the Court noted that the use and zoning of nearby property was agricultural, scoring this important factor for the objecting neighbors. Next, the objecting neighbors established that the flight paths of the gyroplanes and gyrocopters would diminish their property values. The Court concluded that the devaluation of property values did not have a corresponding benefit to the public because the landing area would only benefit the private owner and his guests. The minimal public good did not compare to the hardship of the neighbors, who already wear ear protection to preserve their sensitive hearing. The Court also found that the owner’s land was suitable for its existing agricultural zoning, and that there was little community need for a landing area because at least two airports were within 20 miles of the owner’s property. Finally, the Court looked to the county’s comprehensive plan, which sought to protect the “rural countryside” and anticipated that the local airports would be adequate to handle local flight operations. Therefore, the Court concluded that the county’s award of a special use permit for a restricted landing area was arbitrary and bore no real and substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals, comfort, and welfare of the public as applied to the objecting neighbors’ property.

The full opinion for Robrock v. County of Piatt, 2012 IL App (4th) 110590 is available here.

Post Authored by Dan Bolin, Ancel Glink.


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