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Wolbach v. Zoning Bd. of Appeals of Chicago

APRIL 10, 1967.

MURRAY WOLBACH, JR., PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,

v.

THE ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, LAKE SHORE DROVE SYNAGOGUE, FRANK J. OEHLSCHLAEGER, OWNERS OF 59-65 E. OAK, OWNERS OF 111 E. OAK, THE GREATER NORTH MICHIGAN AVENUE ASSOCIATION, ROSE MINWIGGEN (SAME PERSON AS ROSE MANGAN), MARY GOLLER, 103-107 E. OAK STREET PROPERTY, INC., AND MRS. GEORGE DOW, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. CHARLES S. DOUGHERTY, Judge, presiding. Affirmed.

MR. PRESIDING JUSTICE MURPHY DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT.

This is an administrative review action in a zoning case. Plaintiff appeals from a Circuit Court judgment, which affirmed a special use order of the Zoning Board of Appeals of Chicago for the construction of a synagogue at 70-104 East Oak Street, Chicago.

Plaintiff's theory of the case is that the Zoning Board of Appeals committed reversible error by: (1) giving an unreasonably vague decision which is incapable of enforcement; (2) making findings which were insufficient as a matter of law; (3) making an essential finding which was not supported by competent evidence; and (4) the admission of prejudicial hearsay evidence.

Plaintiff states that East Oak Street, between Rush and Lake Shore Drive, is predominantly a retail commercial street in its first floor and English basements on both its north and south sides, with heavy automobile traffic. There are various small shops, including art galleries, men's and women's apparel stores, decorative hardware stores, a beauty salon, a portrait photographer, dry cleaning establishments, a wedding consultant, and others. There is a motion picture theater, a Christian Science reading room, and three taverns. Sixteen percent of the frontage is residential.

The record before the Zoning Board included the application affidavits, letters, an order of Zoning Administrator, dated July 6, 1965, stating that the application was not approved, and a report from the Commissioner of the Department of Development and Planning, dated September 13, 1965, indicating a conditional approval of the application. Public hearings were had, and witnesses for the applicant and for the opponents testified at length.

The Rabbi for the applicant testified that the synagogue has been identified with Oak Street since 1962 and is presently located on the second floor of 50 East Oak Street. 70-104 East Oak was selected because the location is central to the Jewish population residing in the area, beginning with the River and going north to North Avenue. It serves both the Jewish residents who live in the residential area as well as the transients in the hotels within walking distance of the synagogue. They were unsuccessful in their attempts to find another suitable location. The Rabbi further testified that their plans do not call for off-street parking. The members of the congregation are prohibited by their faith from the use of motor vehicles on the Sabbath and high religious holidays. Services are held during the week, attended by 10 to 50 people. The synagogue has a membership of 300 persons. The planned structure will include a chapel for about 50 to 75 seats and a sanctuary with expanding walls to accommodate up to 500 persons. There will be two clubrooms for youth clubs and a small social hall. Weddings and memorial services will be conducted but not funerals.

Plaintiff testified that the construction of any building, religious or not, which breaks up the continuity of the commercial character of the north side of Oak Street, will diminish pedestrian traffic on the street because of the lack of interest created by the withdrawal of interesting commercial space. The present synagogue is on the second floor, and there are shops below. He further stated: "Oak Street is just developing. We would prefer to see the development of an Oak Street of a commercial character because we believe that it is to the advantage of both sides of the Street to have it so. . . . I think it is pretty widely known that the continuity of commercial property along a commercial street is extremely important."

The decision and order was entered September 28, 1965, as follows:

"WHEREAS, the Lake Shore Drive Synagogue, for the Continental Illinois National Bank and Trust Co. of Chicago, Trustee, filed July 29, 1965, an application for a special use under the zoning ordinance for the approval of the location and the erection of a church building, in a B7-6 Restricted Central Business District, on premises at 70-104 East Oak Street; and

"WHEREAS, the decision of the Office of the Zoning Administrator rendered July 6, 1965 reads:

"`Application not approved. Proposed improvement does not conform with the requirements of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance.'

"and

"WHEREAS, a public hearing was held on this application by the Board of Appeals at its regular meetings held on September 15 and September 23, 1965 after due notice thereof by ...


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