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Wednesday, January 31, 2024

Court Allows Nuisance Claims Regarding Industrial Development to Move Forward

An Illinois Appellate Court allowed a group to proceed with some of its claims in its lawsuit to stop a proposed development of an industrial park. Stop Northpoint, LLC v. City of Joliet

In October 2020, a group sued a city and developer to prevent the annexation of over 1000 acres of unincorporated property for the purpose of developing an industrial business park for warehouses and truck terminals. The city and developer agreed to an annexation and development agreement and development approvals after conducting multiple public hearings. After amending the lawsuit several times, the trial court ultimately considered five claims:

1) whether the development would cause a private nuisance to individuals;

2) whether the development would cause a public nuisance to the community at large;

3) whether the annexation agreement was void for being too vague;

4) whether a November 2021 plan commission hearing about the development was invalid due to inadequate notice; and

5) whether November and December 2021 plan commission’s in-person hearings violated the Open Meetings Act for not following the Governor’s mask mandate.

The trial court dismissed all five of the group’s issues, and the group appealed.

The Appellate Court upheld the trial court’s dismissal of the third, fourth, and fifth claims. On the vagueness claim, the court held that imperfect drafting did not make the annexation agreement illegal or unauthorized. On the notice claim, the court held that the group did not allege they suffered any harm from inadequate notice, so there was no prejudice to justify an improper notice claim. On the mask mandate claim, the court stated the statewide mask mandate was targeted towards individuals, not governments, and there was no legal basis to invalidate an ordinance or annexation agreement passed at a public hearing where face masks were not worn by attendees. 

However, the Appellate Court reversed the trial court’s dismissal of the first and second claims. On the private nuisance claim, the court held that plaintiffs' allegations about the potential impact of air and noise pollution, vibrations, and safety concerns were immediate and specific enough for group members who lived closest to the development to meet the pleading requirements for that claim. On the public nuisance claim, the court found that the plaintiffs sufficiently stated a claim for a common-law public nuisance in their allegations relating to a potential increase in truck traffic and the impacts on the community. 

In sum, the Appellate Court held that the trial court should have let plaintiffs' private and public nuisance claims move forward to the next stage of litigation and remanded the case back to the trial court.

Post Authored by Daniel Lev, Ancel Glink



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