Evanston officials this morning applauded a recent court ruling that backed the city's decision not to change zoning that would have permitted an Orthodox Jewish school to open on Hartrey Avenue.
"We have to preserve our zoning," said Ald. Ann Rainey, in whose eighth ward the school would have opened.
By remaining industrial, the five-acre parcel could generate hundreds of thousands of dollars in tax revenue in Evanston, officials say. But that's if an industrial owner can be found for the property.
Officials at Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov Elementary in Chicago have said in previous interviews that they can't understand how their plan for a boys school isn't preferable to letting the property stagnate. They knew about the zoning when they purchased the property in 2007 with a $3.7 million loan, backed by 10 area businessmen.
The zoning in that area does not allow schools — either religious or secular. But a church was given permission to build next door.
Grant Farrar, Evanston's corporation counsel, said this morning that the city council's decision to keep the zoning industrial had nothing to do with religion.
Changing the zoning would affect the amount of property taxes collected in the city, he said. And since there are few areas in the city that are zoned industrial, the city has to be careful about changing them.
Farrar also said the city had concerns about traffic, and that students would have to enter the school from a parking lot on Howard Street, which is used semi-trucks.
He said there were also environmental concerns because the site had been used a factory for more than 50 years.
Joan Dachs Bais Yaakov took the city to court in mid-2009 over the right to build the boys school at 222 Hartrey Ave.
Cook County Circuit Court Judge Judge Mary Anne Mason on April 30 ruled that the city had valid concerns about changing the zoning to allow the school.Copyright © 2015, RedEye