A circuit court judge has sided with the City of Evanston and rejected a Jewish day school’s suit challenging the city’s refusal to rezone a property on Hartrey Avenue for its use.

The proposed school site highlighted in blue on a Google Maps image.

A circuit court judge has sided with the City of Evanston and rejected a Jewish day school’s suit challenging the city’s refusal to rezone a property on Hartrey Avenue for its use.

Judge Mary Anne Mason ruled Tuesday that the city’s concern that the rezoning to permit the non-profit school would cost the city property tax revenue was a legitimate basis for its action.

She also agreed with testimony from the city’s witnesses that the location of the property near CTA tracks and the potential for traffic conflicts with trucks using the shared access road to enter the nearby shopping center supported the city’s contention that the rezoning would have been inappropriate.

The property on Hartrey has been vacant since 2002 when its former owner, Shure, Inc., moved to a new location in Niles owned by CenterPoint Properties. As part of that transaction CenterPoint acquired the old Shure property in Evanston.

CenterPoint in 2004 sold the western portion of the old Shure site to Vineyard Christian Fellowship and the city granted the church a special use permit.

After first considering buying the eastern part of the former Shure site in 2005, the Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov school decided to purchase the building in late 2006 after CenterPoint sharply reduced the price, from $4.15 million to $2.8 million.

The judge also rejected the school’s claim that the city had illegally discriminated against it on the basis of religion. But she criticized comments made by an alderman and the city’s zoning administrator that officials of the school took as evidence of anti-Jewish bias.

Judge Mason noted that schools are allowed in the majority of zoning districts in Evanston and said the school’s decision to purchase a property not zoned for schools doesn’t create a substantial burden imposed on it by the city.

She said she accepted the testimony of the school’s then-president, Ari Shulman, that when he first told Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, of the school’s plan to move to Evanston from it’s location on California Avenue in Chicago, she told him to “keep your Jewish school on California.”

While Rainey denied at trial having made that statement, Mason said she concluded, after considering all the evidence, that Rainey actually had said it.

Mason also criticized what she called “inapproriate and unprofessional references” to “un-kosher logic and “parting of the Red Sea” in an email message then zoning administrator Bill Dunkley sent Rainey about the school’s request.

But despite those remarks, Mason concluded that it was the potential loss of tax revenue, not any religious animus, that motivated Rainey’s remarks, and that while the terms Dunkley used were offensive, they accurately characterized the difficulty the school faced in obtaining the zoning relief that it sought.

Related document

Joan Dachs v. City of Evanston

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Why was it acceptable for the Vineyard?

    Assuming that loss of tax revenue was a legitimate argument for the City, why did they approve the Vineyard Fellowship rezoning ony a few years earlier?  It would seem that the same logic should have applied and, if they were willing to live with loss of tax revenue from one, then why not the other?

    Meantime, with a vacant building sitting there, the taxes must be much lower than when Shure occupied the space. Could not the City have recognized that the full-time use by a school, far more of an active use than weekends by Vineyard, might have added to sales tax revenue at the adjoining shopping center?

    1. “Fundamentally Different” on page 42

      The answer to your confusion lies in the ruling, on page 42 (I would have thought someone who calls themself a "truth ferret" would have actually taken the time to read the document in question.). To wit:

      "But Vineyard's application for a special use permit and Joan Dachs' application for a map amendment are not comparable for a number of reasons. The two requests for zoning relief are fundamentally different. Vineyard's application for a special use permit made at the time when churches were allowed as special uses in I2 districts is not the equivalent of Joan Dachs' request that Evanston amend its zoning map to change the zoning designation of Hartrey from I2 to C1. One requst is tailored to the specific situation of the applicant and leaves the parcel's zoning designation intact, while the other alters the character of the parcel for all purposes." [again, page 42 of the ruling linked above. Emphasis mine.]

      The City didn't "approve rezoning" for Vineyard. They approved a special use permit for a function that was allowed as a special use in that zone. That you didn't understand that, or misremembered, is probably at the root of your confusion.

  2. because Vineyard was about NIMBYISM

    First, Vineyard won a court case against Evanston…so the City did fight them too.

    And the City used discredited NIMBY arguments in its defense against Vineyard:


    "Under Evanston's zoning codes, houses of worship were banned from the relevant zone even though other groups such as clubs and concert halls could locate in the zone. The city's regulations would allow the church to use the building for office space, meetings or even concerts with religious content — but not for worship services. The church claimed the code treated it unequally from similar uses and prevented it from exercising its right to worship.

    But Evanston stood by its zoning code, arguing that governmental interest in preserving a harmonious zoning scheme outweighed the church's interest in worshipping at the property. Unfortunately for the city, the court disagreed, and Evanston was ordered to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees and settlement costs to the church. The problem could have been avoided had Evanston assessed its zoning code's compliance with religious land use law."

    [American City & County]


    Any judge who respects freedom and justice would laugh at stupid NIMBY arguments about 'harmonious zoning schemes'.

    This case is different:

    "Judge Mary Anne Mason ruled Tuesday that the city's concern that the rezoning to permit the non-profit school would cost the city property tax revenue was a legitimate basis for its action."


    Denying permits to non tax-paying institutions is good public policy.  NIMBY violations of freedom of assocation is bad policy.


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