APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ROBERT
JEROME DUNNE, Judge, presiding.
MR. CHIEF JUSTICE BRISTOW DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Rehearing denied February 15, 1955.
This appeal comes here direct from the circuit court of Cook County where a zoning variation ordinance was held to be valid. A complaint for a declaratory judgment was filed by ten occupants of single-family residences in the city of Evanston challenging the permission granted the General Finance Corporation to build an office building on a tract of land consisting of two and one-half acres, located in an area that is more or less residential in character. The suit joined the municipality, its building commissioner and the General Finance Corporation as defendants. It sought a declaration of invalidity of the variation zoning ordinance and injunctive relief against the threatened commercial use of the subject property.
The complaint averred that the defendant General Finance Corporation was the owner of the involved premises, which consisted of two parcels of land, parcel A being at the northwest corner of Central Street and Asbury Avenue, and parcel B adjoining it on the west. There was a frontage on Central Avenue, which street runs east and west, of 370 feet, and on Asbury Avenue, which runs north and south, of 326 feet, extending north to Chancellor Street, which street establishes the northern boundary line of instant property. The complaint further alleges that the municipality's ordinance of 1940 zoned the Central Street frontage in a "D" multiple-family district, to a depth of 163 feet, while the remaining 163 feet, fronting on Chancellor Street, was placed in an "A" single-family zone. This same zoning pattern was followed for the north side of Central in the two blocks westward from Asbury, and for the block extending eastward from Asbury to Bryant Avenue. In the two previous zoning ordinances, this same area was zoned for commercial uses. The General Finance Corporation tract is approximately 130 feet east of the Northwestern University athletic field, which includes Dyche Stadium and McGaw Memorial Hall. This 130-foot strip which separates them runs four blocks north from Central Street to Isabella Street, the northern boundary line of Evanston, and is given a "D" multiple-family zone. The athletic field has been continuously zoned since 1921 in an "A" district, and the frontage along the south side of Central Street in the three blocks from Asland to Bryant is zoned to a depth of 125 feet as "D" multiple-dwelling. With the foregoing exceptions, and with the exception of several lots at the southeast corner of Asbury and Isabella, zoned "D' two-family, all of the remainder of the area bounded by Lincoln on the south (two blocks south of Central), Ashland on the west (two blocks west of Asbury), Isabella on the north (four blocks north of Central) and Bryant on the east (one block east of Asbury) is zoned in the "A" single-family district.
The complaint further alleged that all of the land within the foregoing boundaries is being used in accordance with its zoning, except for three parcels devoted to legal nonconforming uses: (a) the southeast corner of the subject property on which a gas filling station, occupying a space 100 ft. x. 100 ft. has been conducted for many years; (b) the southeast corner of the adjoining block to the east on which there is in operation the terminal and service garage of the Evanston Bus Company, and (c) a series of four small retail stores on the ground floor of the large apartment building at the southeast corner of Central Street and Jackson Avenue, a block west of the subject premises.
With regard to the uses of the land surrounding the subject property, the complaint further averred and the proof tends to sustain the following:
(a) The property along Asbury on both sides of the street running north from Chancellor, three blocks to the city limits, and intersecting streets, Livingston and Jenks, are built solidly with single-family residences.
(b) The strip of land approximately 130 feet in width, immediately west of parcel B, is unimproved a distance of three blocks to the north of Central Street, and the entire block immediately north thereof is occupied by a series of modern apartment buildings. To the west of said strip of land and said apartment buildings is the Northwestern University athletic field.
(c) Almost the entire four blocks of frontage in the square block bounded by Central, Jackson, Ashland and Lincoln are improved with single-family residences.
(d) The entire block on the south side of Central across from subject property and between Asbury and Jackson is improved with a series of three-story apartment buildings, except for two lots which are vacant. On the southeast corner of Jackson and Central is a large apartment building on the first floor of which are the four stores which are nonconforming commercial uses. All the rest of the frontage in the square block bounded by Central, Asbury, Rosalie and Jackson is improved with single-family dwellings.
(e) The east side of Asbury between Central and Rosalie (one block south of Central) is improved solidly with single-family dwellings. To their immediate east is a row of apartment buildings fronting on Central Street and on the Evanston golf course property, which is opposite Bryant Avenue.
(f) The frontage of the block on the east side of Asbury Avenue between Central and Chancellor is vacant and unimproved. The adjoining property to the east is occupied by the terminal and garage of the Evanston Bus Company, as a nonconforming use. Said improvements are screened from the areas west and north by landscaping.
In the area bounded by Lincoln, Ashland, Isabella and Bryant, there are at least 125 single-family dwellings, many of them constructed in the last ten years, with values ranging from $25,000 to $70,000. The record further indicates that the General Finance Corporation acquired legal title to parcel A on January 5, 1953, and to parcel B on January 7, 1953; that contemporaneously therewith the defendant caused to be filed, in the name of one of its grantors, an application with the Zoning Board of Appeals to permit a variation of use allowing it to construct on said tract a home office building, which would be an "F" commercial district use under the ordinance of 1940. This application was heard by the board on February 5, 1953, and resulted in a series of findings entered in June of that year. Briefly, the board determined that on the north half of the property in the "A" single-family zone, there was situated two dilapidated houses, while on the south half, the apartment zone, there was located the automobile service station; that the use of the property for residential purposes was adversely affected by its location, being subjected to the unfavorable influence of Dyche Stadium and the athletic field on the west, and the car barns of the Evanston Bus Company on the east; that for many years during which the south half of the property had been zoned for apartment use, there had been no development for that use; and that the north half of the property had not been a "satisfactory development" for residential use; that the construction of the proposed office building would, under the circumstances, be of general benefit to the community and in the public interest, and that the strict application of the zoning use regulations to the subject property would result in a hardship upon the property owners. Consequently, it was recommended that the variation be approved, conditioned upon the removal of the filling station, construction of the office. building with certain setbacks from street lines, the installation of adequate parking space for employees, and the landscaping of the premises. The report of the Zoning Board of Appeals was adopted by the city council of Evanston and embodied in the variation ordinance of July 13, 1953.
The structure proposed to be built on the subject property is an office building which is intended to be used as the home office of the defendant corporation, not as a loan office dealing with the public or as a general commercial building. No part of it shall be closer than 40 feet from the north line of Central Street, nor 27 feet from the west line of Asbury Street, nor 77 feet from the south line of Chancellor Street, and in area it shall not exceed one quarter of the total area of the premises. The improvement contemplates that there would be parking space for at least 75 automobiles in the northwest section of the property, with access only from Central Street, and it shall be landscaped and maintained with trees and shrubs in such a manner as to enhance its appearance and screen the parking area from the view of the surrounding residential properties. The proposed building is principally a one-story structure containing a square footage of 27,000 feet, a considerably smaller second story containing 6,800 square feet and a ...