The Illinois Supreme Court recently held that a trial court
had no authority to balance the interests of the parties in determining whether
to enforce compliance with an ordinance. City of Rock Falls v. Aims Industrial Services, LLC.
The City of Rock Falls had an ordinance in place that requires any property within
city limits that is being serviced by a private sewage disposal system to be
converted and redirected to the public sewage disposal system upon the sale of
that property. Aims Industrial Services, LLC (Aims) purchased a
commercial property located within Rock Falls that was being serviced by a
private sewage disposal system. Despite being notified by the City that it needed to comply with the ordinance, Aims did
not take action to connect its property to the public sewage disposal
system. The City filed a lawsuit to enforce compliance with the ordinance.
The trial court found in favor of Aims and held there
was no reason, outside of compliance with the ordinance, to force Aims to connect to the public sewage system. In ruling in favor of Aims, the court balanced the competing interests of the parties, and considered Aim’s costs of compliance of approximately $150,000, and the fact that the private
sewer system was not in disrepair nor a threat to public health.
appealed, arguing that the trial court should not have considered the interests
of the parties and instead should have enforced the requirements in the ordinance.
The Appellate Court agreed and reversed the ruling in favor of Aims. The Appellate Court stated that “where a governmental agency is expressly authorized by statute to seek
injunctive relief, the traditional equitable elements necessary to obtain an injunction
need not be satisfied.” Further, the
Appellate Court explained that “because there is a presumption of harm to the public
when an ordinance is violated, a governmental agency seeking an injunction need
only show that the ordinance was violated and that the ordinance specifically provides for injunctive relief.” The Appellate Court concluded that because the City only had to prove that Aims violated
the Code and that the Code specifically authorized injunctive relief as a remedy, “the construction work and cost required to connect to the City’s
sewage system, as well as the exemption granted to the other business, were
Aims appealed to the Illinois Supreme Court, which upheld the Appellate Court’s ruling in favor of the City. The Illinois Supreme Court made it clear that a “court is not free to disregard or ‘rebalance’ the policy
determinations made by a legislative body” and when a trial court is
confronted “with a continuing violation of statutory law, it has no discretion or
authority to balance the equities so as to permit that violation to continue.” The trial court should only have considered whether the City met its burden in establishing a violation of the ordinance had occurred.
Post Authored by Alexis Carter & Julie Tappendorf, Ancel Glink