1622-forest-place

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.

Related stories

Pritzker seeks another Evanston B&B

Lakefronters lose: B&B limits defeated

Aldermen approve lakefront B&B plan

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation

8 Comments

  1. The proposal now goes to the City Council

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

    Yes…play time is over….the NIMBYs have had their fun, but now it is time for the grown ups to make a decision.

    Unlike the members of the ZBA, the aldermen are concerned about balancing the budget, keeping taxes low, and coming up with money to pay for pensions, cops, and firemen.  

    And in City Council,  Judy Fiske and Melissa Wynne are outnumbered by the other seven aldermen.  Even one or two of them defect, getting 5 votes should be easy.  

    1. ZBA role in decision making process

      I hope you are not implying that the ZBA are not grown up enough to make decisions. They make most of the zoning decisions in town with a few minor exceptions that go to Council for final approval.

      You are correct. The members of ZBA are not primarily concerned with balancing the budget, raising revenue or the tax structure. That is not the mission that they are tasked with by Ordinance. They are to examine whether a requested special use or major variation conforms to the standards set forth in the Zoning Ordinance, none of which addresses those issues. 

      ZBA voted against the first proposal and Council did approve it. But Council also did not provide any additional direction to ZBA to allow them to come to a different conclusion. The same applicant, the same attorney, the same architect, the same neighborhood. If Council did not change the guidelines under which this proposal came before ZBA, the outcome should not be expected to change.

      But I think you might fail to see how this B&B is going to do any of the things that you say Council is concerned with. The owner is not required to pay any hotel tax (no new revenue there) and the most that this new establishment will do is to bring up to 10 people at a time to possibly spend money in Evanston (hardly balancing the budget or paying for police pensions). The fact that the new residence will be worth at least $4 million dollars will generate additional property taxes (most of which goes to schools), and it will hopefully increase the property values and taxes on neighboring properties.

      But that would happen whether or not it were converted to a B&B because Mr Pritzker would probably make improvements anyway.

      1. Ordinance, shmordinance

        "You are correct. The members of ZBA are not primarily concerned with balancing the budget, raising revenue or the tax structure. That is not the mission that they are tasked with by Ordinance. They are to examine whether a requested special use or major variation conforms to the standards set forth in the Zoning Ordinance, none of which addresses those issues."

        True, the ZBA is tasked with a certain mission by the Ordinance (which, as we all know, is carved on clay tablets carried  down from Mt. Trashmore by Orrington Lunt).

        The problem is that our zoning rules are stupid and impractical , because they were written by NIMBYs.  That's why we always need special uses or other work arounds. 

        It would make more sense to have more reasonable….or no….zoning. This would eliminate all of the NIMBYism, and the special breaks and favors, that go with every zoning appeal or variance.

        Unfortunately the current situation seems to keep everyone happy:

        1.  The NIMBYs get to obstruct every project.

           [  They really don't care if they are successful…they just enjoy the process of obstructing development, because they are mainly retirees and housewives or others with too much free time.]

        2.  Council gets to 'review' every project.

        [ So Council still has power ]

        3.  Zoning lawyers are employed.

           [ It's a rough market for lots of lawyers…but if you know Evanston's zoning code, you are guaranteed a job.]

        4.  Landlords are happy. [Not developers..but landlords, who like to keep the supply of housing limited.]

        1. The sarcasm of clay tablets

          The sarcasm of clay tablets from Mt Trashmore doesn't change the fact that the Ordinance is the prevailing law on all zoning matters in Evanston. If you don't like it, work to change it. Go to your alderman, go to the Plan Commission, go to ZBA, go to city staff and explain how you think it would work better. (Claiming that it is stupid doesn't fix it. Suggest ways to improve it.)

          I really don't think anyone would seriously propose no zoning. Every government entity uses zoning to keep similar land use in defined areas. Operating an oil refinery next to a daycare center would not be good planning. But every one of those zoning ordinances also provides for flexibility through special use applications for specific projects and variances to the code. I will agree that sometimes are zoning seems illogical or impractical, but not stupid.

          1. The NIMBYs do not get to obstruct every project. The ZBA has often heard the complaints from neighbors and decided that their concerns were exagerated as to the impact of a specific project. The characterization that every zoning appeal of variance as being a "special break" or "favor" is also incorrect. The ZBA is not a body which grants favors or gives breaks to owners.

          2. And Council has the final decision in three specific applications: special uses, parking and heights over 45'. All other decisions of the ZBA are binding according to Illinois law and must be appealed in the Circuit Court. At that point it becomes a private matter between the plaintiff and defendent and the city is not involved.

          3. Most people who appear before the ZBA represent themselves and very few have spoken with a zoning lawyer. They tend to consult with city staff who give them guidance on their project and how it can best conform to existing zoning or have the minimum impact on the neighborhood.

          4. Small developers who come to ZBA with plans that fit within the intent of the zoning code and Comprehensive General Plan created by Council have very few difficulties in getting approval. Larger developments which go through the Plan Commission and Council do tend to have more difficulties in getting approval which may in turn make landlords of larger buildings happy.

  2. Wasting money

    "But that would happen whether or not it were converted to a B&B because Mr Pritzker would probably make improvements anyway."

    Why would he invest in improving a property that won't generate any revenue?

    1. Not all investments are financially motivated

      Mr Pritker's attorney, Mr Scott, said that Pritzker would be losing money on this project. He bought the place for $2.8 million and plans to put another $5.5 million into renovations and repairs, including a tear down and rebuild of the coach house… That means he has an investment of over $8 million in his B&B. Rooms are projected to rent for $250-$300 per night. He may generate revenue but he's not covering his costs. Plus the coach house cannot be rented as part of the B&B, so that investment doesn't figure into the revenue. (Yes, it will be rented, but again, I have to believe that he would be renting that out regardless.)

      Mr Pritzker is a preservationist and historian. His concern, according to his attorney, is that too many old Evanston homes are not able to be purchased and maintained by single families. The ZBA was told that when Patriot Park LLC purchased the property, it had not yet been decided whether this would be a B&B or a private home for Ms Overland, a partner who is the owner/operator. So according to the testimony, there was not any surity that this would become a revenue generator.

      If he is only purchasing properties to convert to B&B (or investing in properties to generate revenue), then one can assume that he will be coming to Council with a couple more B&Bs because he has purchased additional old homes in that neighborhood.

      1. Preserving old houses

        "Mr Pritzker is a preservationist and historian. His concern, according to his attorney, is that too many old Evanston homes are not able to be purchased and maintained by single families."

        OK. I didn't know that.  In that case, I'm against the B&B.

        I thought that Pritzker was doing this to run a business.  If he only wants to preserve old houses, then forget it.

        Those old houses cannot be maintained by single families any more….and more importantly, the lakefront area should have more people.  So the city should not be doing anything to keep those old houses afloat…they should be sold to developers to make modern townhouses, condos, smaller houses, and other uses.   

         

      2. He owns more homes

        You are correct. Col. Pritzker owns four homes in the neighborhood: his personal home, a home he restored and is renting to a family, 300 Church, and 1622 Forest.

        I highly doubt he will be converting his own home or the home he is renting out into B&Bs.

Leave a comment
The goal of our comment policy is to make the comments section a vibrant yet civil space. Treat each other with respect — even the people you disagree with. Whenever possible, provide links to credible documentary evidence to back up your factual claims.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *