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ZBA votes against second bed and breakfast

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Evanston's Zoning Board of Appeals voted 4-2 this evening against plans from billionaire James N. Pritzker for a bed and breakfast at 1622 Forest Place.

But that was one more favorable vote than Pritzker's first B&B proposal, for a property two doors away at 300 Church St. received from the ZBA — which turned thumbs down to that by a 4-1 margin.

The 300 Church St. plan ultimately was approved by the City Council on a 7-2 vote.

An attorney for Pritzker, Andrew Scott, said Pritzker plans to spend between $3 million and $6 million to restore the Forest Place home — including demolishing and rebuilding the coach house behind the home.

A limited liability company controlled by Pritzker acquired the building last March for $2.8 million. He had acquired the 300 Church St. house two months earlier for $2.25 million.

Several nearby homeowners opposed the B&B plan in testimony to the ZBA.

Board member Scott Gingold said he beleived the city's zoning provision permitting bed and breakfast operations as a special use was intended for hobby businesses or for empty-nesters hoping to earn extra money after their children moved out.

And he said he believes Pritzker plans to set up a series of B&B businesses along the lakefront that would change the character of the neighborhood and have a very negative impact on other homes in the neighborhood.

But member Beth McLennan said she'd lived for a number of years in a resort community that had B&Bs in residential neighborhoods.

"My take on this is that it will be a meticulous, expensive, well-done renovation," McLennan said, calling it "an excellent adaptive reuse of the home."

"I don't see a well done, relatively expensive B&B as any kind of blight on the neighborhood," she added.

The proposal now goes to the City Council for a final decision.

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