Recently, an Illinois appellate court affirmed the decision of a zoning board denying a resident’s request to change his property to a planned business district. The resident completed construction of a barn on his parcel of land that he planned to use as storage for his off-site concrete construction business. The zoning board determined that such a use was not within the current agricultural plan for the parcel and denied the resident’s request to change the property to a planned business district.

On appeal, the resident challenged the zoning board’s decision to deny the change as against the manifest weight of the evidence. Specifically, the resident argued that his 10 acre parcel was not suited for agricultural use as it crossed by numerous streams, it contained a 50 foot power line easement, it and was not large enough to support any agricultural use. The resident also argued that the equipment that he planned to store in his barn was “substantially identical” to the machinery found on a farm.

In denying the resident’s appeal, the court noted that there was no evidence suggesting that the property was instead well-suited for commercial development. Such evidence that potentially could have been presented may have been testimony of the need for this business in the vicinity, evidence that community members supported the change, evidence that zoning officials support the change, or evidence that commercial development had already begun encroaching into the agricultural district. Because none of this evidence was submitted by the resident, as it was his burden, the court was unable to say that the zoning board’s decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence.

Further, the court also rejected the resident’s “substantially identical” claim because there was no evidence that the use of the property would have been no more intrusive than the use of similar equipment for agriculture. The court stated that zoning officials have the discretion to determine whether the benefits of each type of use outweigh the negative consequences of that use in the district.

This case serves as a reminder of the broad authority and deference given to local zoning boards in making decisions to change or alter existing plans.

Jonathan M. Feinstein

Author: Jonathan M. Feinstein, Jacob Caudill