468 F.3d 975 (7th Cir. 2006), 05-4144, Vision Church v. Village of Long Grove

Docket Nº:05-4144, 05-4234.
Citation:468 F.3d 975
Party Name:VISION CHURCH, UNITED METHODIST, Plaintiff-Appellant, and Northern Illinois Conference of United Methodist Church and C. Joseph Sprague, presiding Bishop (now by succession, Bishop Hee-Shoo Jung), Intervenors-Appellants, v. VILLAGE OF LONG GROVE, Defendant-Appellee.
Case Date:November 07, 2006
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

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468 F.3d 975 (7th Cir. 2006)



Northern Illinois Conference of United Methodist Church and C. Joseph Sprague, presiding Bishop (now by succession, Bishop Hee-Shoo Jung), Intervenors-Appellants,


VILLAGE OF LONG GROVE, Defendant-Appellee.

Nos. 05-4144, 05-4234.

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit.

November 7, 2006

Argued May 2, 2006

Appeals from the United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division, No. 03 C 5761—Charles R. Norgle, Sr., Judge.

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Andy R. Norman (argued), John W. Mauck, Mauck & Baker, Chicago, IL, for Plaintiff-Appellant.

Adam M. Kingsley (argued), Holland & Knight, Chicago, IL, for Defendant-Appellee.

Samuel W. Witwer, Jr. (argued), Witwer & Waldron, Evanston, IL, for Appellants Northern Illinois Conference of United Methodist Church and C. Joseph Sprague.

Before Cudahy, Ripple and Wood, Circuit Judges.

Ripple, Circuit Judge.

In 2003, Vision Church, United Methodist ("Vision") filed the present action against the Village of Long Grove, Illinois ("Village"); Vision alleged that the Village's denial of Vision's application for voluntary annexation, its involuntary annexation

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of Vision's property, its enactment of a municipal Public Assembly Ordinance, and its denial of Vision's applications for a special use permit to build and occupy a church on real property it had purchased violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States, the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 ("RLUIPA"), see 42 U.S.C. § 2000cc, and various Illinois laws. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the Village on October 7, 2005. Vision now appeals. For the reasons set forth in the following opinion, we affirm the judgment of the district court.



A. Facts

1. Application for Annexation

Vision is a religious corporation of the State of Illinois currently located in Mundelein, Illinois; it was founded in 1981, joined the United Methodist denomination in 1988, and adopted the name "Vision Church, United Methodist" in August 2001. Its membership, which currently totals approximately 120 persons, consists primarily of Korean-Americans.

The Village of Long Grove is an 18-square mile community located in Lake County, Illinois, with a population of approximately 6,000. According to the Village's "Comprehensive Plan," it is dedicated to preserving its "rural character," to the "provision of a quiet countryside" and to the enjoyment of "open space." R.98, Ex.3 at 02-1, 03-1. The Zoning Regulations of the Village of Long Grove ("Zoning Regulations") govern the building and location of public buildings, including religious institutions; under the Zoning Regulations, religious institutions are permitted as "special uses" in areas zoned as "R1," "R2" and "R3" Residential Districts, as are schools, fire stations and sewage treatment facilities.1 See zoning Regulations: The Village of Long Grove § 5-4-2-2, R.99, Ex.2 (hereinafter "Zoning Regulations") (setting forth the special uses allowed in a "R1" district); id. § 5-4-3-2 (same for "R2"); id. § 5-4-4-2 (same for "R3"); see also id.§ 5-11-6(D) (setting forth the procedures governing the Village's consideration of an application for the "special use" of a property).

Prior to 1999, Vision was located in Park Ridge, Illinois. In 1999, however, it began looking for a new church site: It expected its membership to grow significantly in the upcoming years and desired a larger facility. It purchased a 27.40-acre vacant plot in unincorporated Lake County, Illinois, in September 2000, "with [the] intention to build a church there." R.1-1 at 3. "[M]any Korean-American immigrants in the Chicago-area and families in the congregation had moved to Lake County," making the site ideal for the construction of a new church facility. R.177-2, Ex.76 at 2.

At the time of purchase, Vision's property was zoned for church development under the Lake County Zoning Code; however, Vision desired to build the church within the incorporated municipality of the Village of Long Grove. Reverend Soon-

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Chang Jang, the head pastor of Vision Church, has explained that "Vision wanted to build a good relationship with the Long Grove residents," and believed that being within the Village would further this goal. Id. at 5. Therefore, on June 6, 2000, Vision applied to the Village of Long Grove for annexation under 65 ILCS 5/7-1-8. See 65 ILCS 5/7-1-8 ("Any territory which is not within the corporate limits of any municipality but which is contiguous to a municipality at the time of annexation . . . may be annexed to the municipality . . . [by] a written petition signed by the owners of record .... A majority vote of the corporate authorities then holding office is required to annex."). In its application, Vision requested as a condition of annexation that the Village zone its property "Residential (R2)" and grant Vision a "special use" permit to construct a church complex on the property. R.177-1, Ex.52 at 1. It proposed plans for a 99,000-square foot church facility, consisting of five main buildings and an over 1,000-seat sanctuary.

Soon after the submission of this application, Vision and the Village entered negotiations over the conditions of annexation. During these negotiations, the Village expressed concern about the size of the church complex and its compatibility with the Village's goal of protecting natural resources and maximizing open space. In December 2000, at the Village's request, Vision agreed to submit revised plans; in March 2001, its representatives presented these revisions to the Plan Commission of the Village of Long Grove ("Plan Commission"). Under the new plans, the size of the church complex had been decreased to 56,200 square feet, consisting of three main buildings (a sanctuary, an administration building and a Sunday school building); the sanctuary would seat 600 instead of 1,000; and parking spaces were reduced from 400 to 240.

In addition, Vision agreed to comply with some, but not all, of the Village's conditions on construction. For example, it agreed to remove the "Fountain, Chapel in the Woods and Outdoor Amphitheater" from the plan, to mark "[a]ll wetland and conservancy soils . . . as lowland conservancy easements," and to serve the religious facilities "by on-site waste disposal systems and/or septic systems." R.98, Ex.14 at 2 (describing the conditions); see also id., Ex.15 at 1 (accepting the conditions). However, in a letter dated August 6, 2001, Vision refused to consent to the following limitations: (1) that "easement language . . . be placed on site plan indicating no future structures or impervious parking allowed"; (2) that "[t]he area marked 'playing field' on the east side of the plan . . . be marked 'Natural Landscaped Area' . . . and no organized outside activities . . . be allowed in the area"; and (3) that "[o]nly two services Sunday or holidays excepting weddings and funerals [be held]. And no more than one major activity each week Monday through Friday, excepting weddings and funerals." Id., Ex.14 at 2; see also id., Ex.15 at 1 (rejecting the conditions). Specifically, Vision claimed that the second condition was inconsistent with its intention "to have a playground for children"; it claimed that the third limitation "necessarily entangle[d] the Village in the operations of the Church." Id., Ex.15 at 1.

On August 7, 2001, the Plan Commission voted to recommend the denial of Vision's application for annexation.2 On August 14,

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this recommendation was accepted by the Long Grove Board of Trustees ("Board").3

2. Involuntary Annexation and the Public Assembly Ordinance

In May 2001, while Vision's application for annexation still was pending with the Plan Commission, a local developer, Joseph Valenti, also applied for voluntary annexation of his land. Valenti owns 120 acres of land adjacent to Vision's property; like Vision, Valenti wanted his land to be within the Village's corporate boundaries. He further requested that, upon annexation, the Village rezone his land "Residential." The Plan Commission recommended approval of Valenti's application on September 4, 2001.4 The Board accepted this recommendation on October 9, 2001.

As a result of the annexation of Valenti's property, Vision's land was surrounded on all sides by property within the Village's corporate boundaries. Under 65 ILCS 5/7-1-13, the Village therefore had the authority to involuntarily annex Vision's property without regard to the conditions of annexation previously set by Vision. See 65 ILCS 5/7-1-13 ("Whenever any unincorporated territory containing 60 acres or less, is wholly bounded by [] one or more municipalities . . . that territory may be annexed by any municipality by which it is bounded in whole or in part, by the passage of an ordinance to that effect after notice is given as provided in this Section."). On October 23, 2001, the Village passed an ordinance annexing Vision's property. See an Ordinance Annexing the Surrounded Property at the Southwest Corner of Gilmer and North Krueger Roads, R.1-1, Ex.D at 1-2 (noting that because "the unincorporated territory [owned by Vision] is contiguous to and totally surrounded by the Village of Long Grove," with proper notice, it may be annexed under 65 ILCS 5/7-1-13). The Village zoned the property "R2" Residential, the zoning classification sought by Vision in its June 2000 application for annexation.5

In November 2001, the Manager of the Village of Long Grove, Cal Doughty, introduced an amendment to the Village's Zoning Regulations, entitled, "An Ordinance...

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