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Friday, July 14, 2023

Court Rules in Favor of Village on Neighbor Zoning Lawsuit

The Illinois Appellate Court recently ruled in favor of a municipality in a lawsuit filed by property owners challenging the Village's approval of rezoning and a PUD for a newly annexed development. Lys v. Village of Mettawa, 2023 IL App (2d) 220255-U.

The Village had annexed 170 acres of land that had been developed in unincorporated Lake County as a corporate headquarters. The annexation ordinance included certain provisions regarding the company's ability to continue operation as it did in the County with certain restrictions on future development that would require Village zoning relief. Three months after annexation, the company filed an application for rezoning of the property to the O-H "office/hotel district" and approval of a planned unit development for the existing uses. The Village conducted public hearings on the rezoning and PUD request and the request was ultimately approved.

The plaintiffs (neighboring residents) filed a three count complaint shortly after the zoning request was approved, claiming that the zoning approval violated their due process rights, among other claims. The trial court ruled in favor of the Village on the due process counts. A count against the property owner regarding certain fencing remained pending. The plaintiffs appealed the ruling in favor of the Village on the due process claims.

The Appellate Court also rejected the plaintiffs' due process claims finding that there was no evidence of procedural irregularities in the zoning process and that the rezoning approval ordinance had a presumption of validity. The Court noted that the plaintiffs acknowledge they received notice of the hearings and were given an opportunity to be heard at multiple hearings and meetings. The Court also rejected their argument that the negotiations between the Village and property owner constituted "contract zoning" or were improper secret meetings, finding no factual basis to support that argument. Instead, the Court found the zoning approval to be an example of valid conditional zoning that was approved after public hearings. The Court also rejected the plaintiffs' LaSalle Factors substantive due process argument, finding that the record overwhelmingly showed that the Village had a reasoned, rational basis for rezoning the property and did not act arbitrarily in approving the rezoning request. As a result, all claims against the Village were resolved in the Village's favor.


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