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Friday, July 21, 2017

Court Upholds Ordinance Prohibiting Storage of Unregistered Vehicles

A recent Illinois Appellate Court decision considered the validity of a municipal ordinance that prohibits the storage of unregistered vehicles on private property. 

In Youngberg v. Village of Round Lake Beach, a municipality passed an ordinance making it unlawful to store any vehicle on private land unless the vehicle was duly registered for operation on the public highways of the State of Illinois. The plaintiff was issued citations by the municipality for parking two unregistered vehicles in his driveway. After an administrative adjudication hearing, the plaintiff was found to have violated the ordinance, and was issued fines. The plaintiff filed a complaint for administrative review, and the municipality’s decision was upheld by the circuit court.

On appeal, the plaintiff argued the municipality lacked the statutory authority to prohibit him for keeping an unregistered vehicle on his property. The plaintiff claimed that the Illinois Vehicle Code prohibited the operation of unregistered vehicles on public highways, but did not prohibit the storing of such vehicles on private property.  Further, the plaintiff argued that storing an unregistered vehicle on private property does not create a nuisance, and therefore the municipality lacked the statutory authority to declare otherwise by ordinance.

The court began its analysis by noting that, as a home rule unit, the municipality was not constrained by statute. Rather, the municipality was authorized to exercise any power and perform any function pertaining to its government and affairs, so long as the General Assembly has not preempted the use of home rule powers in that area. The plaintiff challenged whether the municipality’s ordinance pertained it to its government and affairs, arguing that it was the State of Illinois that had the more vital interest in making certain that state vehicle registration fees are paid. The municipality argued that when unregistered vehicles are kept on private property, they attract vermin, allow stagnant water to pool, and become eyesores.  The municipality maintained that preventing these conditions protected the health and welfare of the community.

The court found that the municipality’s ordinance served the distinctly local function of helping to guard against unhealthy and unsightly conditions within the municipality’s boundaries. As such, the court held that the ordinance pertained to the municipality’s government and affairs, and therefore was a valid exercise of the municipality’s home rule powers.

The plaintiff also argued that the ordinance exceeded the municipality’s police power as a home rule unit. The court acknowledged that ordinance was somewhat overinclusive, as not all unregistered vehicles will become eyesores. The court also noted that the ordinance was somewhat underinclusive, as some properly registered vehicles might become health hazards or eyesores.  Nonetheless, the court found that it was reasonable to “attack the problems associated with unused vehicles by prohibiting the unenclosed storage of vehicles that cannot be driven legally.” Consequently, the court found that the ordinance was also a proper exercise of the municipality’s police power.

Many municipalities have enacted similar ordinances prohibiting the unenclosed storage of unregistered vehicles.  This case confirms that, at least for home rule units, these ordinances are valid as an exercise of the municipality’s home rule and police powers.

Disclaimer: Ancel Glink represented the Village of Round Lake Beach in this case. 

Post Authored by Kurt Asprooth, Ancel Glink


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