Evanston's Design and Project Review Committee recommended approval Wednesday of a special use permit to let an attorney bring his long-time offices into compliance with the city's zoning code.
Attorney Richard Schapiro says he started as a solo practitioner in 1991, working out of a home at 1327 Chicago Ave.
As his practice, focused on property tax appeals, gradually grew, he added employees to work in that property and another he acquired around the corner at 528 Greenwood St.
By the time city inspectors, responding to a complaint from a neighbor, discovered the office use about a year ago, he had about 48 people working in his practice, although some of them work remotely.
Schapiro's attorney, Thomas Quinn, said the property, which is zoned R5, is just across Chicago Avenue from properties, including a Bank of America branch, that are zoned B2, and a little to the south on his side of the street is a shopping district zoned B1.
He said almost all of Schapiro's roughly 2,300 clients conduct their business remotely -- online or by phone -- and don't ever come into the office.
Quinn said Schapiro's practice hasn't resulted in any kind of disturbance of the character of the neighborhood and noted that an office is permitted as a special use in the zone.
He said Schapiro wants to preserve the existing residential appearance of his buildings and is not proposing any change to their exteriors.
He is expected to have to spend about $225,000 to upgrade the buildngs with sprinklers and other safety features to win approval of the special use.
Planning and Zoning Division Manager Scott Mangum said that when he learned of the complaint about the use he assumed from the appearance of the buildings that it involved a home office with just a couple of people and was quite surprised by the intensity of the use. "I think the office has operated well in this location," Mangum said.
Quinn said Schapiro now has three off-street parking spaces facing Chicago Avenue behind the 528 Greenwood building, rents 11 spaces from neighbors and 12 spaces in city parking lots.
He said no more than 10 employees actually drive to the office. Others ride bikes or use the CTA Purple Line, which has its Dempster Street stop about a block away.
The committee proposed conditioning the special use on creating a cap on the number of employees who could work on site each day and limiting the hours of operation to 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.
The committee voted 8-2 to recommend approval of the special use to the Zoning Board of Appeals. The ZBA will make its own recommendation to the City Council, which has final authority over the grant of special uses.