As a former assistant attorney general and a current administrative law judge for the State of Illinois, I am familiar with the legal standards and constitutional restrictions that govern the functions of and proceedings before governmental bodies. I was appalled as I watched members of the village board blatantly ignore the relevant legal standards in rejecting the use of the Marshall Field's building for a vocational college.
The village board was told at least four times by the chair of its own citizen commission that the application met all required standards including whether the special use being sought placed an undue burden on the area when compared to permitted uses. Despite the continuing restatement of the correct legal standards, individual board members spent vast amounts of time rendering their personal opinions on the value of the proposed use based upon numerous criterions except the correct legal standards.
One board member decided to base his decision on his perception of the moral value of the vocational college. Another board member voiced her conclusion that the vocational college was not the "best" and highest use of the property when she voted against the special use permit. A third village board member seemed to be swayed by the testimony of a representative of Mr. Taxman that the students at the vocational college were not rich enough to provide a valued customer base to the retail businesses in the area.
Why is this important? Because in violating the legal standards applicable to these types of proceedings, the village board members have invited litigation to undo their improperly reached decision, thereby leaving this village vulnerable to legal damages for their failure to abide by the correct legal standards. Additionally, there insistence on ignoring the correct legal standards will also ensure the Marshall Field's building will remain without a tenant for many months to come resulting in loss of income to the village.
It appears this current board believes it is not bound by law or the facts in the record. Which raises the question: What standards does this board govern by?
Valerie J. Peiler