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Alderman: Evanston faces invasion by churches

The Evanston City Council Monday voted to move ahead with an ordinance restricting the establishment of churches in business and commercial districts after an alderman said the city may face an invasion of storefront churches from Chicago.

The Evanston City Council Monday voted to move ahead with an ordinance restricting the establishment of churches in business and commercial districts after an alderman said the city may face an invasion of storefront churches from Chicago.

The New Hope Haitian Church in the 700 block of Howard Street is one of the churches Alderman Rainey complained about.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said there are already seven storefront churches on the Evanston side of a single block on Howard Street.

She added that the alderman of Chicago’s 49th Ward recently learned that all the storefront churches in his ward violate Chicago’s zoning restrictions, and she fears many of those churches may try to move to the Evanston side of Howard as Chicago cracks down on them.

Alderman Rainey, right, with Alderman Jane Grover at Monday’s City Council meeting.

Rainey said the churches aren’t open during the week when retail and commercial activity is taking place and tend to create dead zones in the neighborhood business district.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, noted that there’s also a cluster of about a half dozen churches in commercially zoned land along Simpson Street in her ward.

The ordinance, which is scheduled for a final vote by the council in two weeks, would removed religious institutions as a permitted use in business and commercial districts and require them to seek a special use permit from the council to operate there.

The ordinance would also restrict the ability of existing churches in those districts to expand their operation.

No one spoke in opposition to the measure during the council meeting Monday night.

Rainey said the majority of uses now permitted in commercial districts are tax exempt, and she called for the Zoning Committee of the Plan Commission to develop additional restrictions on tax exempt uses in those zones. 

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