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Monday, December 17, 2018

Zoning Challenge Moves Forward After Appeal

In a lengthy opinion involving a dispute spanning more than a dozen years, an Appellate Court recently issued an opinion in a case challenging amendments to a municipal zoning ordinance regarding commercial horse boarding. Drury v. Village of Barrington Hills.

In 2006, Barrington Hills amended its zoning ordinance to allow residential horse boarding as a home occupation, subject to a variety of restrictions, including hours of operation. 2 years later, the Village cited a resident for violating the ordinance for operating a large-scale commercial horse boarding facility which did not comply with the "home occupation" restrictions. While the resident (LeCompte) defended the citation in court, neighbors (including Drury) filed their own lawsuit to enforce the ordinance against LeCompte's use.

After LeCompte lost his case against the Village, he asked the Village Board to amend its ordinance to allow large-scale horse boarding operations. The Board did adopt an ordinance that permitted LeCompte's use and also made the ordinance retroactive to 2006. The neighbors filed another lawsuit, this time challenging the zoning amendment on "substantive due process" grounds, alleging that it was unlrelated to the health, safety, and welfare because it was passed solely for the benefit of LeCompte.

After the spring 2015 elections, the composition of the Village Board changed. Shortly thereafter, the Village entered into an agreed settlement order with the neighbors in which the Village agreed that the zoning amendment was "void ab initio" meaning the ordinance was void when it was adopted. The circuit court refused to enter the agreed settlement order between the Village and neighbors. The court also dismissed the neighbors lawsuit challenging the zoning amendment. 

On appeal, the Appellate Court agreed that the settlement order between the Village and neighbors was improper, specifically because it did not include all of the parties, specifically LeCompte who had intervened in the case filed by the neighbors challenging the zoning amendment that allowed commercial horse boarding. 

However, the Appellate Court did not agree with the circuit court's dismissal of the underlying lawsuit by the neighbors for a number of reasons. First, the Appellate Court determined that the neighbors did sufficiently plead that the zoning amendment was passed for the exclusive benefit of LeCompte based on the retroactivity language that the circuit court deemed a "legislative pardon" of LeCompte's fines for violating the previous zoning ordinance. Second, the Appellate Court noted that the Village Board repealed the ordinance less than a year after its adoption and in doing so, expressly disclaimed any rational basis for that ordinance. 

Based on the Appellate Court's ruling, the case will go back to the circuit court for further proceedings on the neighbor's challenge to the zoning amendment.


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