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No room for God in industrial zones

The city is considering banning churches and membership organizations from Evanston’s industrial districts.


The city is considering banning churches and membership organizations from Evanston’s industrial districts.

The proposed zoning change is an attempt to bolster the city’s case in a lawsuit filed against it earlier this year after the city denied an Orthodox Jewish organization’s bid to build a Jewish school in an industrial district, Corporate Counsel Jack Siegel said.

“They claim they’re entitled to put in a parochial school in an industrial district because membership organizations are permitted,” said Siegel, who proposed the law. “Now, I don’t think membership organizations ever belonged in industrial districts in the first place, so if that’s their argument, I want to eliminate their argument.”

The new rule would effectively prevent nonprofits, including churches, from removing properties in industrial districts from the tax rolls, which attorneys from the Jewish school argue was the city’s primary motivation in denying the school’s request.

Churches and membership organizations should have never been permitted in the first place, Zoning Administrator Bill Dunkley said. Industrial districts could pose a safety hazard to church or organization members, he said.

“Industrial districts are the only districts where we permit, for instance, noxious chemicals to be used,” he said.

If adopted, the rule would not affect the operations of two religious institutions already based within industrial districts, the Vineyard Christian Fellowship, 2495 Howard St., and the Mount Zion Apostolic Church, 2101 Dempster St.

Neither, however, would be able to expand or rebuild if catastrophe hits, Zoning Officer Dominick Argumedo said.

The Plan Commission will consider the ordinance at its next meeting on Sept. 9. If the commission makes a recommendation on the issue, it could come before the City Council on Sept. 14.

The new rule is part of a “targeted cleanup” of zoning laws that the Plan Commission has been working on for several months, Dunkley said.

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