Trouble in Paradise (2-24-1957)

Everybody was moving to the suburbs.  Families were escaping the headaches of the big, bad city.  And suburban officials were happy to see them coming.  More people meant a bigger tax base.  Better schools!  Better roads!  Bigger libraries!  More police and firemen!

There was one problem–lawsuits.

Today it seemed all of suburbia was litigation-happy.  “People move out here thinking everything is going to be perfect,” one village manager complained.  “In about two years they start fighting with their neighbors.  Two years later, they’re down here suing the village government.”

The lawsuits could be about anything.  In Lake Forest, a man was in court because he didn’t want his taxes to support the library.  In Skokie, homeowners were suing to stop a bowling alley from being built.  Oak Park residents were suing to block a school playground.  A Wilmette group was trying to keep a motel out of their town.

A number of towns were being sued by real estate developers.  The issue was usually zoning.  In Deerfield, the minimum lot size was set at 20,000 square feet.  The developers were trying to get that reduced to 7,000, so they could fit more homes onto their land.

Developers had their own complaints.  They felt that officials in some towns were just interested in squeezing money out of them.  That was the argument made in a Lake Zurich case.

The developer there had been trying to build for two years.  He had reduced the number of homes he’d planned, and had even agreed to pay the school district $200 per house.  Then the plan commission asked for their own $275 per house.  Enough was enough!  See you in court!

Sometimes the litigation could get rough.  Back in Deerfield, another case involved a brick company that wanted some land rezoned for industry.  A protest petition had been signed by 1,380 people.  Now the brick company was naming all 1,380 as defendants in their suit.

And so, in town after town, the litigation went on.  No one could forecast when this tidal wave might ebb.  But according to one observer, the end result was this–with all these lawsuits, the suburbs had become “a virtual promised land for lawyers.”



4 Responses to “Trouble in Paradise (2-24-1957)”

  1. 1 Wendy February 24, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    John, this is really interesting. I had no idea this went on. Paradise indeed!

  2. 3 benson February 24, 2014 at 3:58 pm

    The best thing about today’s post, John, is you spotlighting the fact that today’s crybabies are not a new phenomenon. They are second, third, maybe even fourth generation idiots. “Nothing new under the sun.” And sadly, no end in sight

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