UNITED STATES DISTRICT COURT
NORTHERN DISTRICT OF ILLINOIS
UNITED STATES OF AMERICA,
VILLAGE OF SOUTH ELGIN,
The United States of America alleges:
1. This action is brought by the United States to enforce the provisions of the Fair Housing Act, as amended, 42 U.S.C. §§ 3601 et seq.
2. This court has jurisdiction over this action under 28 U.S.C. § 1345 and 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
3. Defendant Village of South Elgin ("Village") is located in Kane County, Illinois, and is organized under the laws of the State of Illinois.
4. The Village of South Elgin exercises zoning and land use authority over land within its boundaries. The Village of South Elgin's Zoning Ordinance contains the City's zoning and land use regulations.
5. The South Elgin Zoning Ordinance ("Zoning Code") allows a group home, defined as a group of six or more persons with disabilities living together as a single housekeeping unit, to locate in all residential districts so long as it has a special use permit.
6. Unity House is a group home for persons recovering from alcohol or drug dependency. It operates on the premise that recovering users will succeed in remaining sober if they live in a highly supportive environment where substance use is non-existent and actively resisted.
7. Unity House is located at 618 East State Street in South Elgin, Illinois, an R-4 residential district according to the Village's Zoning Code. It is operated by Unity House, Inc., a corporation organized under the laws of Illinois. The President of Unity House, Inc. is Brett Mathis, who owns the house in which Unity House is located and is also the House Director.
8. On or about August 29, 2003, Unity House applied for a special use permit in order to operate a group home for nine persons recovering from alcohol or drug dependency.
9. On or about October 15, 2003, the South Elgin Planning and Zoning Commission held a public hearing on the Unity House special permit application. Neighbors, including a member of the South Elgin Board of Trustees who lived in the area of Unity House, made numerous statements indicating strong opposition to the group home based on the disability of its residents. At the conclusion of the hearing, the Commission voted 4-0 to recommend that the Village Board deny a special use permit for Unity House.
10. On or about November 3, 2003, the Village Board met to discuss the Unity House special use application. Members of the public again expressed opposition to the application based on the disability of the residents of Unity House. On or about November 17, 2003, the Village Board met again and voted to deny the special use permit.
11. The reasons given by the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Village Board for denying the special use permit were based on the demand for on-street parking created by Unity House. On several occasions, Bret Mathis made proposals that would have reduced the demand for parking, including creating additional off-street parking, and reducing the number of residents from nine to seven. The Village declined to consider any of these proposals.
12. The residents of Unity House are persons with a disablity who are "handicapped" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(h).
13. Unity House is a dwelling within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 3602(b).
14. When it denied Unity House a special use permit, the Village acted on the basis of the handicap of the residents and prospective residents, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 3604(f)(1).
15. By refusing to entertain any of the proposals made by Bret Mathis to address the Village's stated reasons for denying Unity House's application for a special use permit, the Village failed and refused to make a reasonable accommodation in the application of its Zoning Code in violation of 42 U.S.C. §3604(f)(3)(B).
16. By denying Unity House a special use permit, the Village has denied to a group of persons rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, a denial which raises an issue of general public importance, and has engaged in a pattern or practice of resistance to the full enjoyment of the rights granted by the Fair Housing Act, as provided in 42 U.S.C. § 3614(a).
17. The current and prospective residents of Unity House and Bret and Allison Mathis, its owners, are the victims of the Village's discriminatory practices and are aggrieved persons, as defined in 42 U.S.C. § 3602(i). These persons have suffered damages as a result of the Village's conduct.
18. The Village's conduct described herein was willful and taken in reckless disregard of the rights of others.
WHEREFORE, the United States prays that the court enter an ORDER that:
1. Declares that the actions of the Village of South Elgin described herein constitute a violation of the Fair Housing Act;
2. Enjoins the Village of South Elgin, its agents, employees, assigns, successors and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, from violating the Fair Housing Act;
3. Enjoins the Village of South Elgin, its agents, employees, assigns, successors and all other persons in active concert or participation with them, to permit a group home for up to nine persons recovering from alcohol or drug dependency to locate at 618 East State Street, South Elgin, Illinois.
4. Requires such action by the Village of South Elgin as may be necessary to restore all persons aggrieved by the Village's discriminatory housing practices to the position they would have occupied but for such discriminatory conduct;
5. Awards monetary damages to each person aggrieved by the Village of South Elgin's discriminatory housing practices, pursuant to 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(B); and
6. Assesses a civil penalty against the Village of South Elgin in order to vindicate the public interest, in an amount of money authorized by 42 U.S.C. § 3614(d)(1)(C).
The United States further prays for such additional relief as the interests of justice may require.
Respectfully submitted,ALBERTO GONZALEZ
Document Filed: September 14, 2005 > >