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Wednesday, December 30, 2020

Court Dismisses Land Use Claims

An Illinois Appellate Court recently upheld the dismissal of a complaint against a municipality, finding that the landowner had no lawfully vested right and that his regulatory takings claim was precluded by a claim that had already been litigated in federal court. Storey v. City of Alton.

In 1999, Michael Storey bought property in Alton in order to develop it into a mobile home development. The property was annexed into the City by a 1986 pre-annexation agreement. Storey claims the annexation agreement provided for rezoning of the land to allow for the placement of manufactured homes and that he would be entitled to subdivide the property.

Storey sought to subdivide the property and submitted a request to the City for approval in 2008, which the City denied, at least in part because the available water supply did not meet fire safety standards. Five years later, Storey submitted two proposed plats of subdivision , but the City notified him that they were defective due to various problems and omissions related to the application.

After the City’s denial of the proposed subdivision, Storey filed a lawsuit against the City in federal court claiming that the City had used its position to prevent him from subdividing his property under false pretenses, and that the City continuously cited him for ordinance violations while allowing his neighbors to violate the same City ordinances. The federal court ruled in favor of the City, finding that Storey's equal protection and state law claims were brought too late and were barred by the statute of limitations. The federal court also found that law enforcement officials are entitled to a great deal of discretion in how they choose to prosecute offenses, so it rejected Storey's equal protection claim that every ordinance violation or criminal act has to be prosecuted. Storey appealed to the Seventh Circuit, which upheld the federal court’s decision. On June 11, 2018, the United States Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal.

A year later, Storey filed a complaint in state court, based on the same factual allegations. The trial court dismissed that complaint and Storey appealed.

On appeal, the Appellate Court also ruled in the City’s favor. The Court reasoned that because there was currently no proposed plat pending with the City for the development of his property, his request for an order to approve a plat (mandamus relief) was not ripe for review and any opinion by the court would be advisory at best. The Court also found that the mandamus action was time barred.

In addition, the Court rejected Storey's argument that his regulatory takings claim was different from the equal protection claim he had brought in federal court, finding that the underlying transaction or events for each of the claims were identical—both claims sought to challenge the City’s denial of his proposed subdivision plat based on the lack of a water supply to the property. As a result, the Court held that Storey could not relitigate the same issue in state court that he had lost in the federal court.

Post Authored by Rain Montero & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


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