Updates on cases, laws, and other topics of interest to local governments

Subscribe by Email

Enter your Email:
Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Subscribe in a Reader

Follow Municipal Minute on Twitter


Blog comments do not reflect the views or opinions of the Author or Ancel Glink. Some of the content may be considered attorney advertising material under the applicable rules of certain states. Prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Please read our full disclaimer

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

Trial Court Erred in Applying Balancing Test in Ordinance Enforcement Action

The Illinois Supreme Court recently held that a trial court had no authority to balance the interests of the parties in determining whether to enforce compliance with an ordinance. City of Rock Falls v. Aims Industrial Services, LLC.

The City of Rock Falls had an ordinance in place that requires any property within city limits that is being serviced by a private sewage disposal system to be converted and redirected to the public sewage disposal system upon the sale of that property. Aims Industrial Services, LLC (Aims) purchased a commercial property located within Rock Falls that was being serviced by a private sewage disposal system. Despite being notified by the City that it needed to comply with the ordinance, Aims did not take action to connect its property to the public sewage disposal system. The City filed a lawsuit to enforce compliance with the ordinance.

The trial court found in favor of Aims and held there was no reason, outside of compliance with the ordinance, to force Aims to connect to the public sewage system. In ruling in favor of Aims, the court balanced the competing interests of the parties, and considered Aim's costs of compliance of approximately $150,000, and the fact that the private sewer system was not in disrepair nor a threat to public health. 

The City appealed, arguing that the trial court should not have considered the interests of the parties and instead should have enforced the requirements in the ordinance. The Appellate Court agreed and reversed the ruling in favor of Aims. The Appellate Court stated that “where a governmental agency is expressly authorized by statute to seek injunctive relief, the traditional equitable elements necessary to obtain an injunction need not be satisfied.” Further, the Appellate Court explained that "because there is a presumption of harm to the public when an ordinance is violated, a governmental agency seeking an injunction need only show that the ordinance was violated and that the ordinance specifically provides for injunctive relief." The Appellate Court concluded that because the City only had to prove that Aims violated the Code and that the Code specifically authorized injunctive relief as a remedy, "the construction work and cost required to connect to the City’s sewage system, as well as the exemption granted to the other business, were irrelevant."

Aims appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which upheld the Appellate Court's ruling in favor of the City. The Illinois Supreme Court made it clear that a "court is not free to disregard or 'rebalance' the policy determinations made by a legislative body" and when a trial court is confronted “with a continuing violation of statutory law, it has no discretion or authority to balance the equities so as to permit that violation to continue.” The trial court should only have considered whether the City met its burden in establishing a violation of the ordinance had occurred.

Post Authored by Alexis Carter & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink


Post a Comment