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Weinstein v. Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Highland Park

April 06, 2000


Appeal from the Circuit Court of Lake County. No. 98--MR--369 Honorable John R. Goshgarian, Judge, Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Inglis

Plaintiffs, Allan and Margot Weinstein, appeal from the judgment of the circuit court of Lake County affirming the order of defendant Zoning Board of Appeals of the City of Highland Park (the Board) that granted a variance to defendants Edward and Janice Litke (defendants) to allow them to construct an addition to their house. Plaintiffs contend that defendants could have completed plans for the addition that would not have required a variance, that defendants failed to offer sufficient evidence to support their request for a variance, and that the Board's order was invalid for failing to make specific findings of fact. We affirm.

Defendants' property is located at the intersection of Florence Avenue and Sheridan Road in Highland Park and is immediately west of plaintiffs' property. Defendants' driveway accesses Sheridan Road.

On June 19, 1997, defendants requested variances to exceed the maximum allowable floor-area ratio and to encroach into the front yard, backyard, and side yard setbacks in order to build an attached garage, add to existing interior rooms, and construct an attached covered porch. At the hearing on the variances before the Board, the plaintiffs conceded that defendants' additions affecting the front yard and backyard did not require a variance and plaintiffs did not object to granting a variance for the floor-area ratio. The only evidence specifically presented to the Board at the hearing concerned the issue of granting the variance from the side yard setback requirement.

At the time defendants requested the variances, their home already encroached 6 feet 3 inches into the required 12-foot side yard setback. Defendants proposed to extend the existing legal nonconformity for a distance of 33.4 feet in order to build an attached two-car garage.

At the hearing, Bruce Green, defendants' architect, presented his design for the addition. His plan converted the one-car garage into additional kitchen space, an added laundry room, and a mud room. Additionally, Green's plan called for the construction of a two-car garage, a turnaround driveway with two exits onto Sheridan Road, and an attached covered porch. Green's plan called for the extension of the existing nonconformity, which would be the new garage wall, to have no windows.

Richard Williams, senior planner for a land-use consulting firm, testified that, owing to the steep slope in the backyard, it would be extremely expensive to put the proposed addition on the back of defendants' house. Williams also testified that defendants' small lot created a hardship and Green's plan was a reasonable use of the property and in keeping with the other residences in the neighborhood. Williams also testified that allowing the variance would not be detrimental to the public welfare or injurious to other property in the neighborhood.

Renee Tickman, a real estate broker, testified that the property was functionally obsolete and would be difficult to sell. She also testified that the addition would increase the value of the property.

Defendant Edward Litke testified that his growing family needed more space. He testified that he and his family loved the neighborhood and did not want to move.

Barry Weinstein, an architect, testified for plaintiffs. He noted that a variance for the front yard setback was unnecessary. Weinstein presented an alternate plan for the addition. Weinstein testified that, if defendants were to adopt his plan, they could construct the addition without needing to obtain a variance and that his plan would provide defendants with the same functionality they would receive from Green's plan. Weinstein also testified that, unlike defendants' plan, his plan would not impair the supply of light and air to plaintiffs' property.

Tony Sanchez, a landscaper, testified that the line of pine trees along the plaintiff-defendant property line would be harmed by the proposed addition and would die prematurely. Sanchez also noted that several of the pine trees were distressed as a result of the existing legal nonconformity and would likely die prematurely. Sanchez testified that it would cost plaintiffs $15,000 to replace all of the pine trees if they were to die.

Wayne Wanek testified that defendants' addition would cause plaintiffs' property to decrease in value. Wanek testified that, in its present configuration, defendants' house currently had the least impact on the value of plaintiffs' property; any change to defendants' house, either an increase or decrease in its size, would cause the value of plaintiffs' property to decrease.

The Board made the following findings of fact. It determined that the proposed side yard variation was nothing more than the extension of an existing legal nonconformity that harmonized well with the existing building. The Board also found that plaintiffs' privacy would not be compromised and the trees along the property line would not be harmed by the proposed addition. The Board further resolved any credibility issues in favor of defendants and granted defendants' request for the side yard variance. The Board granted variances for all of defendants' requests and conditioned them on defendants' agreement to put in two windows into the garage wall extension.

Plaintiffs filed a complaint in the circuit court for administrative review. The circuit court affirmed the Board's ...

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