Valencia v. City of Springfield, Illinois, 030118 FED7, 17-2773

Docket Nº:17-2773
Opinion Judge:Flaum, Circuit Judge
Party Name:Mary B. Valencia, et al. Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. City of Springfield, Illinois, Defendant-Appellant.
Judge Panel:Before Flaum, Easterbrook, and Manion, Circuit Judges.
Case Date:March 01, 2018
Court:United States Courts of Appeals, Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit

Mary B. Valencia, et al. Plaintiffs-Appellees,


City of Springfield, Illinois, Defendant-Appellant.

No. 17-2773

United States Court of Appeals, Seventh Circuit

March 1, 2018

          Argued February 8, 2018

         Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of Illinois. No. 3:16-cv-03331 - Richard Mills, Judge.

          Before Flaum, Easterbrook, and Manion, Circuit Judges.

          Flaum, Circuit Judge

         Plaintiffs allege the City of Springfield ("Springfield" or "the City") unlawfully discriminated against three disabled individuals when it ruled they could no longer occupy a single-family residence located within 600 feet of an existing disabled group home. Finding that plaintiffs possessed a reasonable likelihood of success on the merits, the district court granted them a preliminary injunction and enjoined the City from initiating eviction proceedings while this case is pending. The City appeals. For the reasons stated below, we affirm.

         I. Background

         A. Factual Background

         Like most municipalities, Springfield's zoning code ("the Code") divides the city into multiple zoning districts, including residential districts. Springfield, Ill., Code of Ordinances § 155.004. The primary permitted use within residential districts is "single-family detached residences." Id. § 155.016. The Code defines "family" as: One or more persons each related to one another by blood, marriage, or adoption, or is a group of not more than five persons not all so related occupying a single dwelling unit which is not a boardinghouse or lodging house as defined in this section.

Id. § 155.001.

         In addition to single-family detached residences, the Code also allows certain residential districts to be used for "family care residence[s]." Id. § 155.016. The Code defines a "family care residence" as: A single dwelling unit occupied on a relatively permanent basis in a family-like environment by a group of no more than six unrelated persons with disabilities, plus paid professional support staff provided by a sponsoring agency either living with the residents on a 24-hour basis or present whenever residents with disabilities are present at the dwelling, and complies with the zoning regulations for the district in which the site is located.

Id. § 155.001. The Code imposes additional restrictions on family care residences. In relevant part, such residences must be "located upon a zoning lot which is more than 600 feet from the property line of any other such facility." Id. § 155.053. According to the Code, this is to ensure that family care residences, "which operate most effectively in residential environments, do not adversely affect those environments through over concentration." Id.

         Plaintiff Individual Advocacy Group, Inc. ("IAG") is a non-profit organization that provides residential services to adults with disabilities, including assistance in dressing, food preparation, shopping, home maintenance, and cleaning. Such services allow disabled individuals to live in family-like settings in typical residential communities, a configuration commonly referred to as Community Integrated Living Arrangements ("CILAs"). Notably, unlike other residential service agencies, IAG does not own or operate group homes. Rather, IAG clients (or their legal guardians) rent individual dwellings on their own behalf, and then IAG provides in-home support.1

         In 2012, IAG contacted several property owners in Springfield about providing housing for CILAs. In August 2013, Christine and Robyn Hovey agreed to rent a home located at 2328 Noble Avenue ("the Noble home") to three IAG clients. The Noble home is located in a residential district that allows both single-family detached residences and family care residences. It is a one-story ranch house that resembles other dwelling units in the neighborhood. The district court found there is nothing about the exterior of the Noble home that indicates it is inhabited by disabled individuals. Although IAG employees are present any time the home is occupied, they do not drive marked vehicles, and there are generally no more than two staff cars present at any time.

         In March 2014, after the Hoveys completed significant renovations, 2 IAG clients J.M., J.D., and former plaintiff A.D.3 moved into the Noble home. Each possessed a substantial physical or mental impairment, and two were non-ambulatory. At the time, A.D. was a sixty-two year-old male who was confined to a wheelchair and almost completely nonverbal.

         Unbeknownst to the Hoveys, IAG, or its clients, Sparc- another non-profit organization supporting those with developmental disabilities-had been operating a family care residence ("the Sparc home") across the street from the Noble home for approximately twelve years. Like the Noble home, the Sparc home is indistinguishable from other homes in the area. However, according to the City, the property lines of the Noble home and the Sparc home are separated by only 157 feet.

         In August 2016, the City notified the Hoveys that a complaint had been filed because the Noble home was located within 600 feet of the Sparc home, in violation of § 155.053 of the Code. The City thus informed the Hoveys that the Noble home residents would be evicted unless the Hoveys applied for a Conditional Permitted Use ("CPU"). Under the Code, "[a]ny family care residence … not in compliance with [§ 155.053] … may seek a conditional permitted use under … the zoning ordinance." Id. To qualify for a CPU, a family care residence must establish that: (1) "the proposed location and use will not have any adverse impact upon residents of nearby facilities when located within 600 feet of another such facility"; and (2) "[t]he proposed location will not have any detrimental affect [sic] upon existing privacy, light or environment of surrounding residences." Id. § 155.211.1.

         On October 7, 2016, the Hoveys and IAG submitted a joint CPU application. On November 10, 2016, the Spring-field-Sangamon County Regional Planning Commission ("the County Commission") recommended the CPU be denied because "[t]he evidence provided in the petition [did] not provide sufficient detail to allow staff to make a reasonable determination whether the design and method of operation of the proposed use [would] minimize the adverse effects on the character of the surrounding area."

         On November 16, 2016, the Springfield Zoning and Planning Commission ("the Springfield Commission") held a public hearing. At the hearing, Dr. Charlene Bennett, IAG's executive director, testified that when the Noble home opened, IAG was not aware of the Sparc home across the street. She further testified that, except for one instance in early 2014 when a Sparc resident entered the Noble home without supervision, the residents of the Noble home have had no contact with the residents of the Sparc home.

         Plaintiffs also presented testimony from Daniel Lauber, a land use planning and zoning expert. Lauber testified that because the Noble home was leased by IAG's clients, not IAG itself, the City should treat its residents as a "family" under § 155.001 and classify the home as a single-family detached residence rather than a family care residence. Lauber further testified that, even if the home was deemed a family care residence, a CPU was warranted because the home was consistent with the City's comprehensive plans and did not adversely affect the surrounding community.

         In response, certain residents of the 2300 block of Noble Avenue asked that the CPU be denied because caregivers "rac[ed] up and down their block to get to work on time, " "listen[ed] to … loud music in their vehicles, " "park[ed] on the wrong side of the street, " and blocked driveways and sidewalks.

         At the conclusion of the hearing, the Springfield Commission voted 4-3 to recommend denial of the CPU. The Springfield City Council considered the recommendations of the County Commission and the Springfield...

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