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Britton v. Town of Chester

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Citation. 22 Ill.134 N.H. 434, 595 A.2d 492 (1991)

Brief Fact Summary. Plaintiffs challenged a zoning ordinance which provided for multi-family housing to be built only as part of a planned residential development, which required that multi-family housing include a variety of housing types, such as single-family homes, duplexes, and multi-family structures.

Synopsis of Rule of Law. A successful plaintiff is entitled to relief, which rewards his or her efforts in testing the legality of the ordinance and prevents retributive action by the municipality, such as correcting the illegality.


Facts. Plaintiffs, who were low to moderate income families and a prospective builder of low to moderate income multi-family housing, challenged a zoning ordinance which provided for multi-family housing to be built only as part of a planned residential development, which required that multi-family housing include a variety of housing types, such as single-family homes, duplexes, and multi-family structures. The land set aside under the ordinance for a planned residential development was only 1.73% of the total land in the Town of Chester and was only allowed on two parcels. Additionally, the zoning ordinance placed restrictions on the potential builder. Any project must first receive the approval of the town planning board as to “whether in its judgment the proposal meets the objectives and purposes set forth in the ordinance in which event the Administrator of the planning board may grant approval to the proposal subject to reasonable conditions and limitations.” The ordinance allo
wed the planning board to control various aspects of the planned residential development without reference to any objective criteria. One section of the ordinance permits the planning board to “retain, at the applicant’s expense, a registered professional engineer, hydrologist, and any other applicable professional to represent the planning board and assist the planning board in determining compliance with the ordinance and other applicable regulations.” The master appointed by the lower court, found that such subjective review for developing multi-family housing units created a substantial disincentive to the creation of such units because the units would not be economically feasible. Also, the court considered whether bank financing would be adversely affected due to the requirement that the potential builder basically give the planning board a blank check for compliance. The town appealed from the lower court’s ruling that the entire ordinance was unconstitutional.

Issue. Is the zoning ordinance constitutional?

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