Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. Arthur
L. Dunne, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE MEJDA DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
This is an appeal from an order of the trial court reversing the decision of defendant Zoning Board of Appeals of the city of Chicago (Zoning Board) denying the application of plaintiff Hope Deliverance Center, Inc., for a special use. The issue presented is whether the denial of a special use was against the manifest weight of the evidence produced at the hearing before the Zoning Board, particularly, whether plaintiff established: (1) that a church is necessary for the public convenience at that location; (2) that the proposed use is designed, located and proposed to be operated to protect the public health, safety and welfare; and (3) that the special use will not cause substantial injury to neighborhood property values. We affirm.
Plaintiff purchased the property at 1700 West 87th Street, Chicago, Illinois (the property), which property is presently zoned as a B2-1 restricted retail district, and subsequently applied to the Zoning Board for a special use permit to locate and establish a church in the existing one-story brick building. The commissioner of the department of planning of the city of Chicago, pursuant to ordinance (Municipal Code of Chicago 1981, ch. 194A, arts. 11.4-1, 11.10-2), in a written report to the Zoning Board stated that the establishment of a church at the location appears necessary for the public convenience and that it will not cause substantial injury to the value of the property in the neighborhood and recommended that the special use permit be approved. The zoning administrator thereafter rendered a decision wherein the application was not approved as not in conformance with the zoning ordinance, specifically chapter 194A, section 8.4-1 (Municipal Code of Chicago 1981, ch. 194A, art. 8.4-1). Pursuant to plaintiff's appeal from the zoning administrator's decision, the Zoning Board held a public hearing at which the following evidence was presented.
A former owner of the property testified that the property had been used as a medical center from 1953 through 1968 and had been vacant from 1968 to 1980 despite more than 100 attempts to sell it. Area residents testified that the vacant property attracts vandals and provides a hiding place for persons engaging in criminal conduct, that the building is an "eyesore" and that they favor using the property as a church. A local businessman testified that the use of the property as a church would cause no injury to the property values in the area, nor would it hurt neighborhood businesses. Four area ministers attested to the religious and social contributions provided the community by plaintiff.
Reverend Jackie Jordan, pastor of plaintiff church, testified that for the past eight years plaintiff has been a "store-front church" located approximately two blocks from the property. This will not be a "store-front church." The plans submitted show that the renovation of the property will not change the outward appearance or the basic architectural style of the building. The church will contain 163 seats and 18 parking spaces will be provided on site. The principal activities of the church are scheduled to take place on Sundays and on Monday and Friday evenings. Reverend Jordan entered into evidence a petition containing the signatures of 288 area residents, letters from nine community churches, and the signatures of 35 local businessmen supporting the granting of the special use permit.
Scott W. Tyler, a licensed appraiser and real estate broker whose qualifications were stipulated and not disputed, testified that a number of vacant lots as well as vacant and abandoned buildings are located on 87th Street in the area of the property. In his opinion establishing a church on the property would not substantially injure the value of neighborhood property.
Mrs. Thomas, who identified herself as a community spokesperson, opposed the granting of the special use permit. She testified that the community wants to maintain the business nature of 87th Street and submitted to the Zoning Board a petition containing the signatures of 161 community residents opposed to the special use permit. She testified that the community is presently attempting to have a public library located on the property. A similar effort four years ago was unsuccessful.
Irving Larson, local businessman and area resident, opposed the special use permit because of traffic congestion in the immediate area. He testified that only one building is vacant on 87th Street in the vicinity of the property. John Sypniewski, area resident, opined that the building is architecturally unsuitable for a church. Area resident Irene Scott favored more business on 87th Street and testified that 87th Street is congested when she drives home from work each day at 5 p.m. The alderman of the ward within which the property is located testified that there is strong community opposition to the special use permit. Finally, area resident David Brian expressed his opinion that more businesses would be locating on 87th Street.
Following the hearing the Zoning Board denied plaintiff's application for a special use permit based upon the following findings:
"* * * that a church at this location is not compatible with the business character of W. 87th Street and would cause substantial injury to the value of other business property in the neighborhood; that the proposed use is not in the public interest as indicated by representatives of the community who appeared at the hearing and voiced opposition to the establishment of a church at this location and presented a petition to the board with 161 signatures in opposition to the proposed use * * *."
On plaintiff's action for administrative review, the trial court adjudged the decision of the Zoning Board to be against the manifest weight of the evidence and contrary to the law and, therefore, reversed the decision of the Zoning Board. The Zoning Board appeals.
• 1, 2 The Zoning Board contends that plaintiff failed to prove that the proposed use would comply with the standards set forth in the Chicago zoning ordinance for the allowance of a special use permit and, therefore, the trial court erred in reversing its decision. On administrative review the findings and conclusions made by the administrative agency on questions of fact shall be held to be prima facie true and correct. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 110, par. 3-110.) A reviewing court may not reweigh the evidence but may determine only whether the agency's findings and decisions are against the manifest weight of the evidence. (South Side Move of God Church v. Zoning Board of Appeals (1977), 47 Ill. App.3d 723, 365 N.E.2d 118.) If the ...