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06/30/94 ROBERT B. SCADRON v. ZONING BOARD APPEALS

June 30, 1994

ROBERT B. SCADRON, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
ZONING BOARD OF APPEALS OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, GRAHAM C. GRADY, ZONING ADMINISTRATOR OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, TOM SMITH OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PLANNING AND DEVELOPMENT OF THE CITY OF CHICAGO, AND CITY OF CHICAGO, A MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANTS-APPELLEES.



APPEAL FROM THE CIRCUIT COURT OF COOK COUNTY. HONORABLE ROBERT D. ERICSSON, JUDGE PRESIDING.

Hoffman, Johnson, Cahill

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Hoffman

PRESIDING JUSTICE HOFFMAN delivered the opinion of the court:

Following an administrative hearing, Chicago's Zoning Board of Appeals (Board) denied an application filed by plaintiff, Robert Scadron, for a special use permit to erect an advertising sign on a north loop building. On administrative review, the circuit court affirmed the Board's decision, and plaintiff now appeals from this ruling, raising the following issues: (1) whether the Board's decision was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence; and (2) whether thecourt erred in failing to consider, as part of the administrative review proceedings, plaintiff's requests for mandamus and injunctive relief to compel the city of Chicago to process his other pending permit applications.

Plaintiff applied for a permit to erect an advertising sign on the roof of a four-story building at the northwest corner of Randolph and State Streets in Chicago. In his application, plaintiff represented that the sign would measure 14 feet high by 48 feet wide, and that its top would extend 48 feet above "grade level." The subject property was located in the B7-7 zone of the city's central business district. On January 2, 1991, the city granted plaintiff's permit application, and plaintiff erected the sign on April 24, 1991.

Several months later, zoning administrator Graham Grady requested that the permit be revoked after an inspection revealed that the sign did not conform to the city zoning ordinance. Specifically, the top of the sign, which the city discovered to be 72 feet above curb level rather than the 48 feet represented by plaintiff, exceeded the maximum height allowable without a special use permit, which was 50 feet above curb level. (See Chicago Municipal Code, ch. 194A, par. 8.9-7 (1990).) On December 16, 1991, after receiving notice to remove the sign, plaintiff applied to the Board for a special use permit pursuant to section 8.4-7(2) of the ordinance. (Chicago Municipal Code, ch. 194A, par. 8.4-7(2) (1990).) Section 8.4-7(2) authorizes special use permits for signs in the B7-7 zone which are higher than 50 feet over curb level.

Following a hearing, the Board concluded that plaintiff's sign failed to satisfy the requirements for a special use as set forth under section 11.10-4 of the ordinance; in particular, plaintiff failed to show the use was "necessary for the public convenience" at the subject location. (Chicago Municipal Code, ch. 194A, par. ll.10-4(1) (1990).) The Board noted that the sign was located in the "north loop project" area, in which all signs were prohibited except those identifying area buildings and businesses. The Board further found that plaintiff's sign, which faced the State Street shopping mall, created a visual influence inconsistent with the objectives of the north loop project as manifested in the project guidelines (see Chicago Department of Planning, North Loop Guidelines for Conservation and Redevelopment (1989)), and that it contravened the public interest at that location. It should be noted that, despite the city's prior instruction that he remove the sign at issue, plaintiff allowed it to remain standing throughout the administrative proceedings in this case.

At the Board hearing, plaintiff offered the opinions of two expert witnesses, the first of whom was real estate appraiser Terrence O'Brien. O'Brien gave the opinion that the proposed sign would have no adverse impact on surrounding property values and that it was harmonious and compatible with other uses in the area. O'Brien pointed out that outdoor signs had been posted on the subject property since as far back as 1957. He noted that the desire for compatibility of uses was an express goal of the ordinance, and that compatibility was a central factor in the determination of whether a use would be injurious to surrounding property values. In O'Brien's opinion, the fact that the ordinance provided for the special use at issue showed that signs were generally compatible within the B7-7 district, and that they should be allowed unless they caused some adverse impact.

Plaintiff introduced photographs of large commercial signs in the loop and near north business districts. There was no evidence as to the legality of any of these signs. O'Brien gave the opinion that the depicted signs did not adversely affect property values in the surrounding areas. Additionally, he believed that plaintiff's sign in its location was necessary for public convenience, and as a means of communicating and informing the public.

Martin R. Murphy, former chairman of the city property planning department, also emphasized the importance of compatibility to the concept of zoning. He observed that, while advertising signs were completely precluded in the adjacent B6-7 business zone and in many other areas of the loop, they were allowed freely in the B7-7 zone, subject only to the restriction that a special use permit be obtained for rooftop signs exceeding 50 feet above curb level. Murphy further testified that in the event plaintiff's special use permit were granted, there would be no danger of proliferation of rooftop signs of this height, because there was only one other location in the B7-7 district where such a sign could reasonably be erected.

Murphy then discussed how the subject sign met the prerequisites for a special use permit under section 11.10-4 of the ordinance. Specifically, the sign was "necessary for public convenience" because advertising was recognized throughout the country as a necessary ingredient of life, and provided an immense convenience in the form of communication. With regard to the requirement that the special use be designed, located, and operated so that public health, safety and welfare were protected (Chicago Municipal Code, ch. 194A, par. 11.10-4(1)), Murphy testified that he had reviewed the construction drawings for the sign and an engineer's certification, and believed that the sign was safe.

In opposition to the proposed use, zoning commissioner GrahamGrady testified that the original permit had been allowed based upon plaintiff's inaccurate representation that the sign would be only 48 feet above "grade" or curb level. Additionally, city planner Tom Smith testified to his department's recommendation that the special use be denied, because rooftop advertising, in particular through large billboards, was inconsistent with the north loop project and with current efforts to maintain the architectural and urban character of the area. It was also inharmonious with the established pattern of pedestrian-oriented signs in the area. Finally, the Board considered a letter by local alderman Ted Marzullo requesting that the permit be denied.

Following the Board's denial of his special use permit, plaintiff filed a complaint for administrative review. After a hearing, the court affirmed the Board's decision. A petition for rehearing was denied, and the instant appeal followed.

Plaintiff first argues that the Board's decision must be reversed because the evidence overwhelmingly showed that his sign complied with special use standards, and that it was ...


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