The music school building at 1224 Washington St.

A Grammy-Award-winning record producer is closer to winning another prize — the chance to keep training high school students the art and science of music production in his building on Washington Street.

The city’s Design and Project Review Committee voted 8-3 in favor of zoning variances which Jim Tullio said are needed for him to stay in business.

Tullio has said his Butcher Boy School of Music Production was in danger of going under, because the COVID-19 pandemic destroyed his independent music production operation.

Tullio wants to sell the vacant half of his property to help pay the mortgage on the music school, where he also lives upstairs.

The same panel which recommended approval of the variances on Tuesday had previously voted 11-0 against them. But later, a different city agency, the Land Use Commission, was more favorably inclined to work out a compromise, and sent the issue back to DAPR.

The major hangup was the city’s 5,000 square foot requirement for parcels in the R-3 zoning area, where the music school is located. Tullio’s property is too small to cut in half and have each piece of land at the 5,000 foot minimum.

However, Tullio pointed out that “many, many properties in Evanston are under 5,000 square feet,” including his neighbor’s.

The compromise cuts Tullio’s property into two equal parts of 4,613 square feet each, one vacant, and one with Tullio’s building.

Tullio’s friends and supporters have said it’s possible to build a home on the vacant lot, and because the lot is smaller than code, the home could be more affordable in a city where housing is at a premium.

As part of the compromise, Tullio will also have to replace a concrete patio with something more permeable, to minimize water runoff.

City Engineer Lara Biggs was one of the three “no” votes. Biggs was concerned about excess drainage.

“I definitely understand you’re doing something for the community,” Biggs said to Tullio. “But flooding in this town is a big problem.”

But the DAPR majority felt that the compromises were sufficient. The issue will now return to the Land Use Commission at a meeting Feb. 23. The commission has final say on the request.

The non-profit Butcher Boy School teaches music production to high schoolers free of charge.

The school’s name comes from the building’s history. Tullio says it used to be a butcher shot, which contained a “Butcher Boy” freezer.

Jeff Hirsh joined the Evanston Now reporting team in 2020 after a 40-year award-winning career as a broadcast journalist in Cincinnati, Ohio.

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