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Friday, January 10, 2020

Court Upholds Village's Denial of Zoning Variances to Subdivide Property into 3 Lots

It's not often that we see zoning cases out of the Illinois appellate court. Recently, an appellate court upheld a trial court's decision in favor of a municipality in a zoning challenge. First American Bank v. Village of Wilmette, 2019 IL App (1st) 181436

The owner of land filed an application with the Village seeking zoning variances to allow the subdivision of their property (consisting of 37,969.42 square feet in area) into 3 lots. The variances were needed because the newly created lots did not comply with the 60 foot lot width requirement and would not have street frontage. The ZBA held a public hearing on the proposed variances and recommended 4 to 2 in favor of the variances. The Village Board, however, denied the requested variances by a vote of 5 to 1. The owner then filed a lawsuit to challenge the denial, claiming the denial of the variances was arbitrary and capricious. 

At the circuit court level, the judge held a bench trial, hearing evidence from the owner's planning  and civil engineer consultants, as well as the owner and an appraiser. The Village presented its own witnesses, including planning experts, the fire chief, and public works director. After hearing from all witnesses, the court ruled in favor of the Village, finding that the denial of the variances was not arbitrary or capricious. The owner then appealed.

The appellate court first acknowledged that the review of the Village's variance denial was subject to the LaSalle factors test. Applying those factors to the plaintiffs' case, the appellate court agreed with the trial court that the Village's decision was not arbitrary or capricious. Specifically, the Village had identified a number of concerns if the variances were granted and development were allowed. the court also noted that the plaintiffs were still able to use their property profitably. In sum, the Village's denial of the zoning variances was upheld.

The case provides helpful guidance to municipalities in how a court will apply the LaSalle factors in a zoning challenge.


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