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South Side Move of God Church v. Zoning Bd.

OPINION FILED APRIL 5, 1977.

SOUTH SIDE MOVE OF GOD CHURCH, PLAINTIFF-APPELLEE,

v.

ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO ET AL., DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



APPEAL from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. ARTHUR L. DUNNE, Judge, presiding.

MR. JUSTICE STAMOS DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:

Plaintiff, the South Side Move of God Church, commenced this action for administrative review of a decision of the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals (hereinafter "Zoning Board" denying plaintiff's application for a variation in the nature of a special use. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1973, ch. 24, par. 11-13-13.) Defendants bring this appeal from the circuit court's reversal of the Zoning Board's decision and raise the issue of whether the evidence adduced by plaintiff at the public hearing before the Zoning Board was legally sufficient to entitle plaintiff to a special use permit. More specifically, defendants contend that plaintiff failed to establish that the proposed use is necessary for the public convenience at that location and that the public health, safety and welfare will be protected if the permit is granted.

By its application, plaintiff sought approval of the continued use as a church of certain property owned by it and located at 9154 South Ashland Avenue in Chicago. After considering the application, the Office of the Zoning Administrator for the City of Chicago rendered a decision whereby plaintiff's application was not approved because the "proposed improvement does not conform with the requirements of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance." Plaintiff appealed this decision to the Zoning Board, and, pursuant to the Chicago Zoning Ordinance, the Department of Development and Planning filed a report with the Zoning Board recommending that the application be denied. On November 15, 1974, a public hearing was conducted before the Zoning Board. After evidence was presented in favor of the application, the Zoning Board entered a resolution wherein the following findings were enumerated:

"* * * that in this case the proposed use is to be located in a C2-2 General Commercial District; that the proof presented did not indicate that the establishment of a church at this location would not cause substantial injury to the value of other property in the neighborhood in which it is located; that the Board takes judicial notice of the establishment of a used car sales lot, two gasoline service stations and a tavern within close proximity to the subject site whose rights could be jeopardized by the establishment of a church at this location * * *."

Accordingly, plaintiff's application for a special use permit was denied.

Upon administrative review, the circuit court reversed the decision of the Zoning Board and ordered that a special use permit be issued to plaintiff.

The subject premises is located in a district zoned C2-2, General Commercial District. Although a church is not a permitted use in C2-2 districts, it is denominated as a special use which may be allowed in such districts pursuant to the variation provisions of article 11 of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance. (Chicago, Ill., Chicago Municipal Code, ch. 194A, pars. 9.4-2, 11.10-4 (1974).) Article 11 in pertinent part provides as follows:

"Standards. No special use shall be granted by the Zoning Board of Appeals unless the special use:

(1) a. Is necessary for the public convenience at that location;

b. Is so designed, located and proposed to be operated that the public health, safety and welfare will be protected; and

(2) Will not cause substantial injury to the value of other property in the neighborhood in which it is to be located; and

(4) Such special use shall conform to the applicable regulations of the district in which it is to be located."

The evidence introduced at the public hearing disclosed that plaintiff began conducting religious services for its 100 members at the subject site in July of 1974. Prior to that time, the church was located at 6401 South Ashland Avenue, but plaintiff was compelled to relocate when that property was condemned for urban renewal purposes.

The pastor of the church testified that plaintiff purchased the subject premises for $55,000 and expended an additional $30,000-$40,000 for renovations. Although the property does not have facilities to provide off-street parking for the members of the congregation, an offer to purchase, conditioned upon the outcome of this litigation, has been made by plaintiff to purchase a vacant lot adjacent ...


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