What About Zoning!

Vol. XV No. 1 - SUMMER 2004

By: Kathy Gemperle

The effort to down zone many neighborhoods in Chicago is born of the frustration of working with small developers who want to do only one thing, demolish single family homes and two flats and replace them with eight unit condos that fill the lots and leave little or no green space. These buildings need R-4 zoning. Most of Edgewater has been rezoned to R-3 to protect it from this encroachment. Alderman O’Connor has worked with neighborhood associations in the 40th Ward to reduce zoning in several areas. Alderman Mary Ann Smith has worked with various neighborhoods in the 48th ward to reduce zoning to R-3. But is this enough?

R-3 zoning allows for single family homes and two-flats in a formula related to the size of the lot. There are height restrictions too. R-3 zoning on a double lot (50 feet wide) with a standing single family does allow for the demolition of the home for replacement with two two-flats.

No neighborhood that has acted to down zone has suffered any decrease in property values. Developers like to threaten homeowners with this possibility but the reverse is true. Once a neighborhood is protected in a R-3 zoning, the property values rise. Take a look at West Andersonville, Edgewater Glen and Lakewood Balmoral.

Many other neighborhoods are falling to the wrecking ball. Visit Wrigleyville and Lakeview. Read about Ukrainian Village in the Chicago Reader or drive west on Foster and look at the block just west of Chapelle School. There is a row of bungalows and Chicago cottages that are being picked off by builders, one by one. Without down-zoning (now called rezoning), the street face of neighborhood blocks could end up looking like this one.

The new Chicago Zoning Ordinance was approved by the City Council on May 26th. It is the first major revision of the city’s zoning code since 1957. The new ordinance will go into effect on Nov. 1, 2004. The second step is the mapping process when each district will be zoned by the new numbers of the ordinance. The public process where the citizens of Chicago give their input has not been defined as yet. Do not miss the opportunity to participate in this process. There will be new categories: R-3.5, R-4.5 and R-5.5. Learn what they mean and what they allow. Remember that zoning is a community planning tool and not a property owner’s right.

To find out more about zoning go to the City of Chicago web site: www.cityofchicago.org/zoning/. Use the search function to check on permitted work: http://webapps.cityofchicago.org/DOBWeb/.