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La Salle Nat. Bk. v. City of Evanston





Appeal from the Appellate Court for the First District; heard in that court on appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Walter P. Dahl, Judge, presiding.


Rehearing denied June 28, 1974.

This appeal involves the propriety of a zoning classification on certain property located in the City of Evanston, defendant herein. Plaintiffs, La Salle National Bank, as trustee of the property, and James Investment Corporation (hereafter Corporation), as the sole beneficiary of the trust, filed an action in the circuit court of Cook County seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. The circuit court ruled that the present zoning of plaintiffs' property was invalid and further held that the Corporation might construct the multi-unit apartment building which they requested. The appellate court affirmed (La Salle National Bank v. City of Evanston, 10 Ill. App.3d 158), and we granted leave to appeal. The primary question concerns whether plaintiffs presented sufficient evidence to permit the invalidation of the present zoning ordinance.

Plaintiffs' property is a vacant lot at 1746 Hinman Avenue consisting of 52,800 square feet. It is located at the southwest corner of Hinman and Clark Street in Evanston. In February, 1968, the Corporation and owners of the majority of property situated on the eastern side of the 1700 block of Hinman Avenue filed a petition to amend the municipal zoning ordinance. They sought to have both sides of the 1700 block of Hinman Avenue reclassified from R-1 (single-family-residence district prohibiting structures in excess of 35 feet in height) to R-7 (general-residence district allowing structural heights to 85 feet). A similar attempt had been unsuccessful in 1960.

It would appear from the record that extensive testimonial and documentary evidence was presented to the Evanston Zoning Amendment Committee in favor of as well as in opposition to the modification. Pertinent to this appeal was the testimony of Kenneth James, an officer of the Corporation, who disclosed plans to develop the property presently at issue by constructing a large luxury apartment building which would be 85 feet in height. The Committee found that "The characteristics of the subject area itself, together with the higher intensity, nonsingle family residence uses which completely surround it, make the present R-1 Single-Family Residence District unreasonable. There are, however, other alternatives for rezoning the property which ought to be considered in addition to the R-7 General Residence District requested by the petitioners." It enumerated the chief arguments against the R-7 classification as Evanston's "policy objectives designed to discourage (a) increased residential density, (b) the encroachment of high rise buildings on existing single-family neighborhoods." The Committee, therefore, recommended that an R-5A (general-residence district permitting multi-family structures not in excess of 35 feet in height) be established for the Hinman Avenue properties because this zoning category would "(a) be much more compatible with the land use and zoning surrounding the west side of the street [Hinman] than is the existing R-1 Single-Family Residence District Zoning, and be compatible with land use and zoning surrounding the east side of the street, (b) reflect the existing character of the south portion of the west side of the street, the blocks to the north and northwest, [and] west side of the 1700 block of Judson Avenue, (c) take advantage of the value of the site to the City as a whole for the development of high quality housing, (d) provide a transition from the development and zoning on the west and southwest to the lower density uses to the southeast and east near the lakefront, (e) allow the same regulations to apply to both sides of the street, and (f) provide for redevelopment of the west side of the street and long range future redevelopment of the east side of the street which would be much more compatible with the remaining single family homes on the east side of the street." The Committee rejected reclassification of the west side of Hinman to R-7 and the east side to R-5A because it would be difficult to permanently implement less than an R-7 use on the east side of Hinman if the higher density R-7 was granted to properties on the west side of the street. The Committee concluded that "rezoning the area to R-5A would allow a reasonable return on the land to the chief petitioner [Corporation] and would allow good advantage to be taken, for the benefit of the City as a whole, of the special features of the area, without the hazard of setting a dangerous precedent for encroachment of high rise apartments on single-family neighborhoods and on the lakefront."

The committee report was submitted to the Evanston city council after the Corporation filed objections thereto. The city council adopted the committee recommendation insofar as it suggested that the west side of the 1700 block of Hinman be rezoned to R-5A. Plaintiffs then commenced this action.

Various area photos and diagrams depicting the zoning classifications and building heights of structures in the vicinity of plaintiffs' property were part of the exhibits submitted to supplement the testimony presented in the circuit court. The property at issue is situated between the central business district of Evanston, which generally lies to the west and southwest, and park land to the east which abuts Lake Michigan. Much of the property located to the north of the subject site is owned by or related to the operation of Northwestern University.

The property on the east side of the 1700 block of Hinman that retained its R-1 classification consists of seven parcels of property on which are located one or more older structures which appear to be substantial in character and which reflect the attributes of their present zoning classification. On the southeast corner of Hinman and Clark directly across from the subject property is a large home owned by the Westminster Presbyterian Church which is used as a religious center. One family also resides at this location. The remainder of this block has six single-family homes, one with a coach house. On the west side of the 1700 block of Hinman, immediately south of plaintiffs' property, is a single-family home with a coach house. Next to this structure is headquarters for a national fraternity whose operations are conducted in a 2 1/2-story "colonial-style" building. At the corner is the University Club, which is a 3-story brick structure.

East of the 1700 block of Hinman is Judson Avenue. The east side of Judson has a triangular-shaped park located thereon. The west side of Judson consists of several houses comparable in structure to those located on the east side of Hinman. Two are used by the University, another is a sorority house. The remaining structure is a building of limited height and a more modern architectural design. It is owned by a Jewish organization. Further to the east of Judson is the lakefront and another park. The area herein described is an R-1 classification.

To the north of the subject property beyond Clark Street are many structures primarily owned by the University and used for administrative purposes. Most of the buildings are large houses which have been adapted for their present purpose. On the northeast corner of Hinman and Clark is a 2 1/2-story building used by a medical group. Its design resembles that of the national fraternity headquarters previously described. The northern area is zoned U-2 (university district). This classification would prohibit the heights of structures to exceed 35 feet with the exception that a school building might rise to 50 feet if, under certain circumstances, the side and rear yards were correspondingly increased. Student or faculty residences might also be constructed by the University in this area, although there was no evidence that this had been done.

West of the subject property is an alley which abuts a lot containing two older structures for single-family residence. South of this, the remainder of the block is occupied by a ground-level city parking lot. The property herein described is zoned R-7, as are properties located for one block further west. Beyond this point is the business district.

Commencing about one block southwest of plaintiffs' property is the business district. Several blocks from plaintiffs' land in this area is a new 20-story office building.

Directly south, the 1600 block of Hinman Avenue is zoned R-7, and it contains numerous older structures. Located on the west side of this block is a church, a 7-story apartment building consisting of 25 units, and a "court-like building" with 4 floors of apartments totaling 76 units. On the east side of this block are two buildings eight stories high. One is a hotel for elderly men and the other a home for elderly women. The remaining two structures are at the north end of this block. These consist of apartment buildings of substantially lesser height containing 9 and 18 units respectively. It would appear from the record that no structure on this block was 85 feet in height.

Beginning about one block in a southeasterly direction from the property at issue, and continuing as such to the lakefront, is a ...

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