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Friday, December 17, 2021

Appellate Court Confirms Standard of Review for Zoning Challenges

Zoning decisions by municipalities and counties can often be controversial and sometimes end up in litigation.  How these zoning decisions should be reviewed by the courts has been the subject of much debate (and legislation) in Illinois over the past few decades.  Last week, the Appellate Court of Illinois for the Fourth District once again addressed this issue in Schreiner v. County of Logan, et al.

In Schreiner, the Logan County Board approved a rezoning request that allowed a property to be used for limestone mining and crushing. The plaintiffs, who owned adjoining property, sued the county challenging its approval of the rezoning, claiming the county violated several provisions of the Counties Code or the county’s own zoning ordinance. The neighbors also claimed they were not provided a sufficient opportunity to be heard at the public hearings on the rezoning request. After a trial, the circuit court upheld the rezoning decision, finding that the neighbors failed to provide evidence that the decision violated their substantive or procedural due process rights.

On appeal, the appellate court upheld the decision in favor of the county, and confirmed that the proper test for reviewing a legislative action is the rational basis test and not administrative review. The appellate court noted that prior decisions that deemed municipal and county zoning decision administrative in nature had been overturned when the General Assembly amended state statute. The appellate court also noted that these statutory amendments showed that the legislature intended to limit review of zoning decisions to arbitrariness as a matter of substantive due process under the rational basis test, which is evaluated using the LaSalle/Sinclair factors. 

Since the neighbors had not made any specific claim that the county’s rezoning decision violated their substantive due process rights, the appellate court upheld the trial court’s finding in favor of the county. The appellate court declined to address the neighbors' claims that the county’s rezoning decision violated the Counties Code and the County’s own zoning ordinance because the neighbors failed to argue that these alleged violations deprived them of substantive due process. The court also held that the neighbors failed to demonstrate that the county had violated their procedural due process rights because they admitted they had attended the public hearings on the rezoning request and had an opportunity to make statements during those hearings.

The Schreiner case confirms that challenges to municipal and county zoning decisions are limited to substantive and procedural due process grounds.

Post Authored by Erin Monforti & Kurt Asprooth, Ancel Glink


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