Property owner sues O'Fallon over zoning controversy

Ann Knef May 31, 2007, 7:00am

An O'Fallon property owner claims the city is interfering with her ability to sell a controversial piece of land on Hartman Lane, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court May 30.

Kathy Withers claims the city will not allow her to sell the property located at 209 Hartman Lane, in spite of state court and appellate court decisions in her favor.

After Withers bought her residentially-zoned property she attempted to rezone it for commercial use.

The city denied her petition. In January 1998 she filed a complaint in St. Clair County Circuit Court. On Dec. 8, 1999, a judge ruled in her favor.

The city appealed. On June 17, 2004, the Court of Appeals rejected the city's appeal and held that Withers had presented sufficient evidence to satisfy her burden of showing that the zoning ordinance was unreasonable, according to the suit.

Withers' suit filed in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Illinois is seeking compensatory and punitive damages from the city and the city's planning and zoning director Ted Shekell. She also wants the city to comply with court orders regarding the property's zoning.

"Since the time of the decision by the Court of Appeals, plaintiff has taken steps to sell the Hartman Lane property, but the City of O'Fallon and specifically defendant Ted Shekell, have interfered with her ability to sell her property by refusing to recognize the trial court's Order that said property is now zoned O-1, thereby depriving plaintiff of her property without due process of law, in violation of plaintiff's rights under the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution," the complaint states.

She claims Shekell's conduct has been wilful, wanton and malicious or in reckless disregard of plaintiff's federally protected rights.

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