Instead of Waiting to Be Taken, Businesses Take City to Court

Defending your property is an arduous and costly task, especially when the city clearly wants your property for something, but it can decide what it is. In such cases, property owners normally sit and wait anxiously waiting for the hammer to drop, but in the case of Des Plaines, Ill., business owners have taken matters to court.

The businesses in the Five Corners TIF district in Des Plaines, Ill., have continued to run successfully over the past three years. But their properties have languished under the city’s blight designation, in part because the city can take their property via eminent domain at any point and has no plans for what to do after it has seized the property.

After nearly three years of being declared “blighted,” a group of four businesses in the Five Corners TIF district have filed suit against the city, rightfully claiming the blight designation is bogus. So far, nothing has stopped local officials’ vague plans for the area, but the businesses have had enough with having their livelihoods put in jeopardy.

One of those businesses is Chromatech Printing, Inc., a printing company started in 1983 by Michael Van Slambrouck and his wife Barbara.

She told the Des Plaines News in June that the businesses were suing to protect property rights, noting the cost that comes with defending that fundamental right: “It’s awful that we have to risk our retirement savings in order to protect our property rights, which we should be guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution.”

In the state of Illinois, eminent domain is allowed for economic development only in established Tax Increment Financing districts. In order to establish a TIF district, there needs to be a blight study. The business owners’ suit claims the city did a poor job while they worked quickly to establish the redevelopment area back in 2006. The business owners also argue that the city’s “blight” designation is hurting their properties, slowly creating the blight that city officials claim is already there.

Read on.