Another bill has been introduced in the Illinois General Assembly that would restrict municipal zoning authority in Illinois.  House Bill 3185 would amend the Illinois Zoning Enabling Act to prohibit municipalities (including home rule units) from enforcing any building or zoning ordinance against a development after a developer has taken any one of the following 5 “qualifying” steps to move the project forward with the municipality:
1.  Had a preliminary meeting with  municipal staff
2.  Applied for a building permit with the municipality
3.  Presented a development plan to the city council/village board
4.  Substantially invested resources into planning the project
5.  Given notice to the municipality of its intent to develop the property
The bill, if passed, would allow a developer to sue the municipality to order the issuance of permits and approvals and the imposition of fines if the municipality tries to enforce an ordinance in violation of this law.
Clearly, this would be a significant and substantial change in zoning law in Illinois if it is enacted. In essence, it legislates a “vested right” of a developer to proceed with a development irrespective of any zoning or building code changes apparently for an unlimited period of time and based on very little action by the developer to “vest” its rights. For example, it seems that a developer could do as little as simply appear at a meeting of the city council to  show a concept plan during public comment or send a letter to the municipality that it wants to develop a parcel to be able to argue that its rights are vested and they are forever free from any future building or zoning changes. That is a significant departure from the existing vested rights doctrine that has been established through court decisions over time and that already protects developers from municipal changes upon demonstration of certain definitive factors as set out in those cases.
The Illinois chapter of the American Planning Association has sent out information about this bill, asking members to oppose this significant restriction on municipal zoning authority.
Post Authored by Julie Tappendorf