Recently, an Illinois Appellate Court upheld a circuit court’s ruling in favor of a City’s administrative decision imposing a fine against a parking lot owner for failure to obtain a business license. 895 Wood Dale LLC v. City of Wood Dale.

The owner of a commercial parking lot applied for a City business license, but the City refused to issue the license because the parking lot did not comply with the City’s landscaping requirements contained in its zoning code. The City then cited the parking lot owner for operating its business without a business license, and the City’s administrative hearing officer imposed a $500 fine. The owner filed a lawsuit to challenge the City’s administrative decision, and the circuit court upheld the hearing officer’s determination. 

On appeal, the parking lot owner argued that the City was “estopped” from enforcing the landscaping requirements of the City’s zoning ordinance because the City had previously issued permits for the parking lot and had not required the landscaping at that time, had not informed the plaintiff of the landscaping requirements when the City inspected the improvements. The owner argued that it had relied on the City’s inspection and permitting approvals and the City should not be allowed to enforce its landscaping requirements to hold up its business licensing. 

The Appellate Court rejected the owner’s arguments and upheld the City’s administration decision against the parking lot owner. The Court noted that the mere fact that a permit had been previously issued by the City does not preclude the City from enforcing its code and requiring a property to comply with code requirements. The Court also determined that the costs the owner would incur in complying with the landscaping requirements are not the type of losses that trigger equitable estoppel because the owner was always obligated to follow the code requirements. In sum, the Court determined that the owner failed to establish its equitable estoppel argument, so the City’s administrative decision was proper.