Property tax attorney Richard Schapiro goes before Evanston’s Zoning Board of Appeals Tuesday evening seeking a special use permit to legalize his use of two Victorian homes as offices for his practice.

Schapiro has used the homes at 1327 Chicago Ave. and 528 Greenwood St. as offices for decades and now has more than 40 employees who work out of the two buildings.

Office uses in the area’s R5 zone require special use approval, but city staff apparently weren’t aware that Schapiro hadn’t sought the approval until a neighbor complained about two years ago.

He also apparently never informed county tax officials of the office use — which allowed the properties to be taxed at lower residential rates.

Community Development Director Johanna Leonard, in a memo to the ZBA, says that the city’s Planning and Zoning staff has recommended against approving the special use arguing that it “is not in keeping with teh purposes and policies of the adopted comprehensive general plan, causes a negative cumulative effect and diminishes the vlaue of property in the residential neighborhood.”

528 Greenwood St. (Google Maps)

However the city’s Design and Project Review Committee recommended approval of the special use at a meeting last November.

Leonard is recommending that — if the ZBA approves the request — it include conditions that would require providing building modifications, including a mechnical lift from ground level to the first floor of the building at 1327 Chicago Ave. to improve accessibility.

Schapiro has opposed making those improvements, saying the would add $75,000 to $100,000 to the cost of the project and detract from the residential appearance of the properties.

Leonard is also requesting that any approval be conditioned on proof that Schapiro has submitted documentation to the county assessor’s office documenting the nonresidential use of the property for the period since the office use began.

The Zoning Board of Appeals will make a recommendation to the City Council which will make the final decision on the special use request.

Related story

Attorney seeks speical use for long-time office (11/21/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. Office use in residential zone

    He should know more than any other residents that he was cheating his neighbors by paying taxes at a lower rate. In order to be approved, the buildings should be brought up to code and he should retroactively pay the difference between what he paid and what he rightfully owed. This was not accidental. Reeks of Pritzger’s wife removing toilets in order to have their huge house declared inhabitable.

    1. You can’t make this stuff up

      You can’t make this stuff up — what are the penalties to be collected in this case, and could they be applied to the reparation fund?  His practice is discriminatory and not in line with the broader Evanston mandate of inclusion and equity as people with disabilities very likely are unable to work in these ill-equiped houses.  Circumstances like these are what enrage honest taxpayers. 

  2. And he’s a Property tax attorney?

    Do I read this right? This property tax attorney paid property taxes at residential rates, rather than business rates, for decades? He should pay the difference, now. He should also to everything required to make his office acceptable for office use IF the city allows the code variance. I’m not sure why a variance would be granted, though. What is the compelling reason? If he leaves Evanston in a huff, rather than creating a legit office location, we don’t lose much. 
    I will say that the houses look nice on the outside. 
    If this article is remotely factual, I won’t go to him for property tax assistance or advice. 

  3. All you need to know about Property Tax lawyers

    Think about this for 1 minute : the article states that Richard Schapiro “now employs more than 40 people.”

    40 people !!!

    And those 40 people are appealing property taxes.

    And this is just ONE company that is appealing property taxes.

    This tells me and shows me how screwed up and inefficient our current property tax system is in Cook County.

    I hope and pray that Fritz Kaegi is able to bring sanity and restructure the property tax system, and not only restore an appropriate tax system, but also provide some credibility and trust in the system.

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