Rasmussen v. City of Lake Forest, Illinois, No. 75 C 1305.

CourtUnited States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
Writing for the CourtFLAUM
PartiesRobert L. RASMUSSEN et al., Plaintiffs, v. The CITY OF LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS, et al., Defendants.
Decision Date10 November 1975
Docket NumberNo. 75 C 1305.

404 F. Supp. 148

Robert L. RASMUSSEN et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
The CITY OF LAKE FOREST, ILLINOIS, et al., Defendants.

No. 75 C 1305.

United States District Court, N. D. Illinois, E. D.

November 10, 1975.


404 F. Supp. 149

William T. Kirby, Chicago, Ill., and Adam M. Lutynski, Elgin, Ill., Joseph V. Karaganis, Chicago, Ill., for plaintiffs.

Thomas Compere, City Atty., Lake Forest, Ill., and R. Marlin Smith, Julian C. D'Esposito, Jr., Clifford L. Weaver and Barbara Baran, Chicago, Ill., for defendants.

MEMORANDUM OPINION

FLAUM, District Judge.

Plaintiffs challenge the constitutionality of certain zoning ordinances of the City of Lake Forest. The defendants have moved to strike and dismiss the complaint. For the reasons stated below, the motion will be granted in part and denied in part.

404 F. Supp. 150

Taking as true the well pleaded allegations of the complaint, the following fact situation is before the court. Because of rising taxes and costs, it is claimed that it is no longer profitable for Robert Rasmussen to sell or to continue to use his land as a farm. The defendant City of Lake Forest, in which the farm is included, has passed zoning ordinances1 so that the land cannot be sold in lots of less than one and one half acres, or three acres. A limited partnership, plaintiff Lake Forest Properties, was formed by plaintiff Rasmussen and other plaintiff owners, investors, or trustees of interests in the land for the purpose of creating a residential housing development there. For this five million dollar enterprise to be financially successful, an exception to the zoning ordinances is necessary. Towards the obtaining of such an exception, some of the plaintiffs took part in a series of hearings before the defendant members of the Lake Forest Plan Commission. At these hearings, plaintiffs disclosed detailed plans for a residential community on the farmsite. Upon the Plan Commission's recommendation, the defendant members of the Lake Forest City Council denied plaintiffs' request for an exception. Plaintiffs then brought this suit to prevent the City Council from requiring compliance with the ordinances.

Plaintiffs further allege that the zoning ordinances they challenge and the refusal to grant an exception were motivated by a desire to make or keep virtually all the vacant land within the city limits unsuitable for any substantial influx from the expanding population of the Chicago Metropolitan area and that they have been successful. In passing these ordinances, in 1952 and 1955, Lake Forest changed the minimum lot size of the vast bulk of its nonresidential land from one fifth acre or one half acre, to one and one half acres or three acres.

It is contended that residential development on such large lots is not financially rewarding, and that Lake Forest has thus insulated itself from the population growth of the surrounding region. But for the ordinances, Lake Forest would be well suited for a share of the region's growth proportionate to the city's land area, since it has access to employment opportunities, transportation, sewers, and the other necessities of a dense residential community. An analysis of the regional population growth project for the future indicates that Lake Forest will have a smaller and smaller proportion of the housing units needed in the surrounding region for the coming years.

Plaintiffs assert the following federal rights. They contend the enforcement of the zoning ordinances deprives them of their property rights without compensation, in violation of the Fifth Amendment and Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution and that the enforcement constitutes an excessive burden on interstate commerce. They also claim the ordinance bears no rational relation to the City's police power, and is consequently void under the Fourteenth Amendment. Finally, plaintiffs make the relatively novel claim that the zoning ordinance unconstitutionally impinges on the "right to travel". This right is asserted both as an independent, fundamental right, and as a right derived from the Interstate Commerce Clause of the Constitution. Plaintiffs seek monetary and equitable relief.

Defendants' motion to strike and dismiss has numerous bases. The court is asked to abstain to permit a state court determination of the issues raised. In the alternative, it is argued that plaintiffs lack standing to assert the right to travel claims of prospective residents. The individual defendants resist claims for monetary relief on the grounds of

404 F. Supp. 151
legislative and official immunity. The City, as defendant, is not covered by this ground. Defendants further argue that the relief requested is too intrusive for a federal court to impose upon a municipality, and that in any event, attorneys' fees are not warranted

CAUSE OF ACTION

The Supreme Court has found that a zoning ordinance is unconstitutional only if its provisions are "clearly arbitrary and unreasonable, having no substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals or general welfare". Village of Euclid, Ohio v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365, 395, 47 S.Ct. 114, 121, 71 L.Ed. 303 (1926). In sustaining an ordinance which prevented industrial use of certain land, however, the Court recognized "the possibility of cases where the general public interest would so far outweigh the interest of the municipality that the municipality would not be allowed to stand in the way". Id. at p. 390, 47 S.Ct. at p. 119.

The thrust of the complaint in the present case is that Lake Forest's zoning ordinances are so inimical to the needs of growth of the surrounding region as to be unconstitutional. At this stage of the pleadings there has been no answer as to what, if any, legitimate function the ordinance serves. Defendants cite a number of cases in which zoning ordinances that may have been more restrictive and exclusive than the one here have been upheld as legitimate applications of the police power. Village of Belle Terre v. Boraas, 416 U.S. 1, 94 S. Ct. 1536, 39 L.Ed.2d 797 (1974); Citizens Committee for Faraday Wood v. Lindsay, 507 F.2d 1065 (2d Cir. 1974), cert. denied, 421 U.S. 948, 95 S.Ct. 1679, 44 L.Ed.2d 102 (1975); Acevedo v. Nassau County, New York, 500 F.2d 1078 (2d Cir. 1974). These decisions, however, followed a hearing as to the purpose and effect of the zoning ordinances.2 None found the purpose alleged here, of limiting the influx of new residents in the community, to be operative. The closest federal case3 appears to be the Ninth Circuit's decision in Construction Ind. Ass'n of Sonoma City v. City of Petaluma, 522 F.2d 897 (9th Cir. 1975) which found that a limitation on the rate of growth pursuant to a comprehensive plan was not an abuse of the police power. There is as yet no indication of a comprehensive plan here. See Steel Hill Development, Inc. v. Town of Sanbornton, 469 F.2d 956, 962 (1st Cir. 1972). In any event, these decisions do not foreclose the granting of relief under the allegations of this complaint. A cause of action has been stated under the Fourteenth Amendment.

Defendants have not argued at this stage that the economic impact of the zoning ordinance and refusal to grant an exception does not constitute a taking under the Fifth Amendment, although plaintiffs have argued in their brief that it does. This aspect of plaintiffs' complaint is not specifically addressed in defendants' motion to dismiss. Consequently,

404 F. Supp. 152
the court does not consider this issue as having been adequately raised or briefed for ruling. For similar reasons, the court does not rule on the sufficiency of the claim that the zoning ordinance constitutes an excessive burden on interstate commerce

ABSTENTION

Defendants have suggested that this court abstain because delicate and complex issues of state law are involved, and because the federal constitutional questions raised may be obviated by a state court's application of the state constitution to the statutory authorization for municipal zoning ordinances, 24 Ill. Rev.Stats. § 11-13-1. No specific state constitutional section is mentioned, but defendants allude to the possibility that the 1970 Illinois Constitution may be construed to require a "consideration of regional needs in adapting local land use controls".4 Defendants also allude to the possibility that Illinois courts will otherwise rule on the validity of the challenged ordinances, under § 11-13-1. Construing this section, Illinois has previously applied a standard of reasonableness similar to that appropriate for scrutiny of government action under the Fourteenth Amendment. See LaSalle National Bank v. City of Highland Park, 27 Ill.2d 350, 189 N.E.2d 302 (1963); Galpin v. Village of River Forest, 26 Ill.2d 515, 187 N.E.2d 233 (1962); Citizens Bank & Trust Co. v. City of Park Ridge, 5 Ill.App.3d 77, 282 N.E.2d 751 (1973).

The starting point of any abstention analysis is Railroad Commission of Texas v. Pullman Co., 312 U.S. 496, 61 S.Ct. 643, 85 L.Ed. 971 (1941), in which an order by the Texas Railroad Commission was alleged to create violations of the Fourteenth Amendment and the Interstate Commerce clause of the federal constitution. The order required that sleeping cars be in the continuous charge of employees with the rank of conductor, but none of the Pullman Company's black employees were at that rank. Abstention was appropriate because of the prospect that the state court would find the order unauthorized by Texas law:

"The complaint of the Pullman porters undoubtedly tendered a substantial constitutional issue. It is more than substantial. It touches a sensitive area of social policy upon which the federal courts ought not to enter unless no alternative to adjudication is open. Such constitutional adjudication plainly can be avoided if a definitive ruling on the state issue would terminate the controversy." 312 U.S. at 498, 61 S.Ct. at 644.

The rationale for this abstention was that the meaning of Texas law...

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7 practice notes
  • Owen v. City of Independence, Mo., Civ. A. No. 73CV138-W-3.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri
    • August 2, 1976
    ...supra; Scheuer v. Rhodes, supra. It also exists for members of the city council. See e. g.: Rasmussen v. City of Lake Forrest, Illinois, 404 F.Supp. 148 (N.D.Ill.1975). See also: Wood v. Strickland, supra; Mims v. Board of Education of City of Chicago, 523 F.2d 711 (7th Cir. 1975); Bertot v......
  • Hopson v. Schilling, Civ. No. L 75-30.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • July 15, 1976
    ...plaintiff himself has asserted both state law and federal grounds for equitable relief. Cf. Rasmussen v. City of Lake Forest, Illinois, 404 F.Supp. 148, 152-53 (N.D.Ill.1975). In light of the seeming conflict between Nickerson and Lewellyn, however, it is unclear whether in this case plaint......
  • McDowell v. Union Mutual Life Insurance Co., No. CV 75-1506-F.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • November 19, 1975
    ...are not "personal injury" actions is simply incorrect. Huntley v. Zurich General Accident and Liability Insurance Co., 100 Cal.App. 201, 404 F. Supp. 148 280 P. 163 (1929). The motion to dismiss claims six and seven will be IV. Claims Eight and Nine. Defendants contend that claims eight and......
  • Meyer v. NILES TP., ILL., No. 78 C 4744.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • July 24, 1979
    ...855, 55 L.Ed.2d 24 (1978); see Tritsis v. Backer, 501 F.2d 1021, 1022-23 (7th Cir. 1974). See also Rasmussen v. City of Lake Forest, 404 F.Supp. 148 (N.D.Ill.1975) (damage claims against members of city council dismissed because of the unsettled nature of law which plaintiff sought to apply......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
7 cases
  • Owen v. City of Independence, Mo., Civ. A. No. 73CV138-W-3.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 8th Circuit. Western District of Missouri
    • August 2, 1976
    ...supra; Scheuer v. Rhodes, supra. It also exists for members of the city council. See e. g.: Rasmussen v. City of Lake Forrest, Illinois, 404 F.Supp. 148 (N.D.Ill.1975). See also: Wood v. Strickland, supra; Mims v. Board of Education of City of Chicago, 523 F.2d 711 (7th Cir. 1975); Bertot v......
  • Hopson v. Schilling, Civ. No. L 75-30.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court of Northern District of Indiana
    • July 15, 1976
    ...plaintiff himself has asserted both state law and federal grounds for equitable relief. Cf. Rasmussen v. City of Lake Forest, Illinois, 404 F.Supp. 148, 152-53 (N.D.Ill.1975). In light of the seeming conflict between Nickerson and Lewellyn, however, it is unclear whether in this case plaint......
  • McDowell v. Union Mutual Life Insurance Co., No. CV 75-1506-F.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. United States District Courts. 9th Circuit. Central District of California
    • November 19, 1975
    ...are not "personal injury" actions is simply incorrect. Huntley v. Zurich General Accident and Liability Insurance Co., 100 Cal.App. 201, 404 F. Supp. 148 280 P. 163 (1929). The motion to dismiss claims six and seven will be IV. Claims Eight and Nine. Defendants contend that claims eight and......
  • Meyer v. NILES TP., ILL., No. 78 C 4744.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • July 24, 1979
    ...855, 55 L.Ed.2d 24 (1978); see Tritsis v. Backer, 501 F.2d 1021, 1022-23 (7th Cir. 1974). See also Rasmussen v. City of Lake Forest, 404 F.Supp. 148 (N.D.Ill.1975) (damage claims against members of city council dismissed because of the unsettled nature of law which plaintiff sought to apply......
  • Request a trial to view additional results

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