Posted by: Patricia Salkin | February 9, 2020

IL Appeals Court Finds Revocation of Nonconforming Use Certificate was Barred by Estoppel

This post was authored by Matthew Loeser, Esq.

Plaintiff, FLM Enterprises, LLC purchased an 80-acre tract of land near Chillicothe for the purpose of mineral extraction. The Peoria County Department of Planning and Zoning confirmed that the nonconforming use certificate was still valid and issued a letter to FLM stating the same. In 2016, FLM received notification from the Department revoking the nonconforming use certificate “due to evidence that the covered uses were abandoned for approximately 10 years” and ordering FLM to cease and desist. FLM appealed the Department’s decision to the Zoning Board. Peoria County Zoning Board of Appeals approved the Peoria County Department of Planning and Zoning’s decision to revoke a nonconforming use certificate, and the circuit court confirmed the Board’s decision.

On appeal, FLM argued that the equitable doctrines of estoppel and laches barred the Department from revoking the nonconforming use certificate. Here, it was undisputed that Lowder, acting as the Department’s assistant administrator, informed FLM on two occasions that the certificate was valid because storage had continued on the property. Furthermore, Lowder sent a follow-up letter that expressly stated that the nonconforming use certificate allowed for “mining and extraction of stone, sand, and gravel” and was “still valid.” Based on the Department’s communication and its promise to send written verification, FLM purchased the property for $640,000 and initiated plans to develop it for mineral extraction. The court therefore found that FLM justifiably relied on the Department’s that the nonconforming use certificate was valid.

The record further reflected that the Department waited nine years before revoking the nonconforming use certificate. As such, the court determined it would be inequitable to allow the Department to revoke the nonconforming use certificate. Accordingly, the court held that the Zoning Board’s finding that FLM’s reliance was unreasonable was against the manifest weight of the evidence and the doctrine of equitable estoppel applied. Having determined that the Department was estopped from revoking the nonconforming use certificate, the court did not consider FLM’s alternative argument of laches. The case was reversed and remanded based on the application of the doctrine of equitable estoppel.

FLM Enterprises, LLC v. Peoria County Zoning Board of Appeals, 2020 IL App (3d) 180634 (1/29/2020)


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