The City of Evanston reportedly has agreed — for now — to let the owners of a condo get away with not paying a special assessment for alley paving even though the owners lost a court case at the center of the dispute.

The City of Evanston reportedly has agreed — for now — to let the owners of a condo get away with not paying a special assessment for alley paving even though the owners lost a court case at the center of the dispute.

The dispute, as reported by the Evanston Review, involved Padma Rao and her mother, who objected to the city’s decision to remove a tree that was partly on the city alley and partly on land owned by the condominium complex in the 2200 block of Sherman Avenue.

Rao, a physician, claimed that cutting down the tree violated her religious beliefs, but state courts ruled in favor of the city that the tree belonged to the condo association — not Rao — and the association had agreed to the paving project for which the condo unit owners would have to pay. The U.S. Supreme Court recently refused to take up Rao’s case.

City officials this week said they won’t add Rao’s condo to a list of tax delinquent properties whose unpaid taxes could be sold at auction — a step that, had it happened, could eventually lead to Rao losing title to the condo if she continued to refuse to pay the tax bill.

But City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told Evanston Now this morning that “it is the city’s intention to be made whole at some later point.”

It generally is not possible to get the city property transfer tax stamps required to sell real estate in Evanston without proving that all property taxes and special assessments have been paid.

The case reportedly has cost the city $40,000 in legal fees over the past several years.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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5 Comments

  1. Thank god! The original

    thank god!!!!

    The original Review article is infuriorating that the city would waste so much money on a petty case like this.

    and your title for this story is unjust. It is not an issue about being a "tree lover" – maybe you should re-read the Review article Bill

  2. Evanston city officials simply have no backbone

    So Rao has not paid her taxes and the city won’t add her to the tax delinquent properties.

    I wonder how many other tax delinquent property owners the city has not added to the list. This certainly seems like it sets a bad precedent.

    My property taxes are going up yet again in this Recession. So if I refuse to pay my taxes in protest of out-of-control government spending or the fact the city took down a Dutch elm tree in my yard would the city keep me off the list?

    Meanwhile, other condo owners in the building paid their special assessment for the alley. Why does Rao get a free ride?

    I’m sorry. Rao purposefully refused to pay her special assessment and property taxes so she should suffer the consequences. She’s a physician, I’m sure she’d survive if her condo was sold at auction.

    Another boneheaded move by the city.

    1. Is it so boneheaded?

      Sure it looks bad that the city backed down.  But what was the alternative– spending thousands more in legal bills in pursuit of a small sum of money?  The city will catch up to her in the end when she tries to sell the place and discovers that she can’t. 

      Don’t quite know what motive she might have had for pursuing this so vigorously, but I for one am glad that our cash-strapped city decided to cut its losses for now.

  3. Wonderful precedent, Wally

    So now what? Speaking as a condominium association president, does our board now have to give free passes to owners who object to paying whatever city assessments may be due on "religious grounds"? Just because Dr. Rao may be boneheaded doesn’t mean that Evanston should be too.

  4. Separate issues

    Religious freedom is an important thing.  If these folks feel the need to litigate that with the city, so be it.  Our city attorneys will make good decisions about whether to settle or to proceed.  

    Paying taxes is a completely different matter.  Just because you are in a dispute about one thing does not absolve you from following the law on other matters.  Bad precedent for the city (as rent says).  It gives people incentive to have disputes with the city – they could win the original dispute AND the city might give them a pass on their taxes.   Send the bill, Evanston (with penalty and interest – in case you have not heard, we are broke).two different issues

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