Plan commissioners study Roycemore's rezoning request.

The planned rezoning of the 1200 Davis building for Roycemore School drew opposition from several neighbors Tuesday night.

The neighbors, who all live in the 1500 block of Asbury Avenue, said they aren’t opposed to the sale of the building, now owned by the Methodist Pension Board, to the private Roycemore School.

But they said they don’t want to live across the street from property zoned R4, for medium density residential use.

The neighbors argued for rezoning the property from its current office zoning to R1 single-family zoning instead, but still allowing the special use for the school.

The neighbors said they feared that if Roycemore ever left the property they might be faced with the prospect of more dense residential development across the street.

Roycemore’s attorney, Steve Friedland, said the R4 zoning was suggested by city staff in view of the site’s location between single-family housing to the west and R6 high-density residential zones just to the east across Ridge Avenue.

“R4 is not a very dense zoning district,” Friedland said. “The maximum number of units that would be permitted on the site,” which occupies most of the block, ” is something like 40.”

“And if anyone ever were to proposed to do something like that they would need approval for a planned unit development under the city’s zoning code,” he added.

But Friedland stressed that Roycemore has been at its current location for nearly 100 years and hopes to be at the new location just as long.


Top: Plan Commissioners study Roycemore rezoning documents during the meeting. Above: Roycemore architect Stephen Yas describes the plans, which include adding a gymnasium and two new staircases to the nearly 50-year-old pension board building.

At a joint meeting of the Zoning Board of Appeals and the Plan Commission, the neighbors also voiced some concerns about traffic from the new use and complained that they hadn’t heard about earlier public meetings on the plan.

But Roycemore board chairman Tom Ellis of 1110 Grant St. said the school had made extensive efforts to inform all neighbors, including hand leafleting and hiring a firm to make automated phone calls to all phone numbers within a 25-block area around the site.

Comments from members of the two boards suggested they have little fundamental objection to the Roycemore plan, but they sought more advice from staff about the best new zoning district for the property and more detail from the school about how it planned to handle cars arriving at the site.

The hearing on the Roycemore proposal will resume at 7 p.m. on Jan. 14.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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2 Comments

  1. R1 zoning downtown
    But they said they don’t want to live across the street from property zoned R4, for medium density residential use…
    …The neighbors argued for rezoning the property from its current office zoning to R1 single-family zoning instead, but still allowing the special use for the school.

    Here we go again, with the whole stupid ‘zoning continuity’. Apparently people who live in R1 zones do not want to live across the street from anything except R1 zones. If we follow this to its logical conclusion, all of Evanston must be zoned R1.

    Does it make sense to have this particular lot zoned R1? This should be R6, being so close to the center of town.

    More importantly, why do they say that it should be zoned R1 and that the school should have a special use? If that is the case, why not just keep its current office zoning, and still give a special use for the school if necessary? Then if Roycemore were ever to leave, the land would still be zoned for office space.

    Reply:
    On the existing zoning, it seems that a school is not on the list of allowable special uses in an O1 zone (although a “child daycare center” is). See 6-15-2-3 of the city code at http://www.sterlingcodifiers.com/IL/Evanston/index.htm
    — Bill

    1. Allowable Special Uses
      “On the existing zoning, it seems that a school is not on the list of allowable special uses in an O1 zone (although a “child daycare center” is). See 6-15-2-3 of the city code at http://www.sterlingcodifiers.com/IL/Evanston/index.htm

      Thanks, Bill, for the link. I didn’t realize how truly silly and overly complex the zoning code is until I looked at this. It demonstrates the basic problem with our zoning philosophy – instead of prohibiting certain harmful items and permitting things that don’t bother anyone, we seem to prefer to specify those items which are permitted – and prohibit everything else, even if they do no harm to anyone.

      I was delighted to see, however, that:
      “The following uses are permitted in the O1 district:
      Financial institution.
      Government institution.
      Hotel.
      Office.
      Public utility.
      Restaurant – type 1. (Ord. 41-0-04)”

      Perhaps my dream of a new Civic Center-hotel-office-IHOP complex will some day become a reality…and we can add some windmills and a bank to it..all without changing the existing 01 zoning.

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