Articles and Publications

Special use zoning in Chicago

May 13, 2021

Practice AreasReal Estate

When considering purchasing or leasing a commercial property in Chicago or in other Illinois municipalities, an often overlooked issue is whether the property is properly zoned for its intended use. Every property in Chicago falls within a specific type of zoning designation, which identifies a broad category of use such as residential or commercial. These designations are further divided into more specific allowable uses such as a “Community Shopping District.” In Chicago, all uses must comply with the Chicago Zoning Ordinance that describes the different types of construction, buildings and businesses that can be undertaken on the land that has been zoned. If a use is not the same as the designation in a given zoning district, then often a special use approval is required in order to use the property as intended.  
In order to obtain special use approval in Chicago, the prospective property owner or lessee must go through the special use permit application process, provide public notices and attend a public hearing before the Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process. Some of the requirements of the special use application include describing the project narrative, taking photos of the property, obtaining signed affidavits, notifying the surrounding property owners of the proposed use, drafting economic disclosure statements, enlisting the services of an expert witness, and drafting proposed findings of fact regarding the use of the property and the reasons it is compatible with the surrounding area. It is important to carefully review the application checklist  to ensure compliance with all of the requirements. Additionally, although it is not required, a letter of support for the project submitted from the alderman representing the zoning district in which the applicant is applying for a special use permit can be helpful. 
Before entering into any financial commitments for a commercial property (e.g., signing a lease or purchasing property), it is imperative that lessees or purchasers review the zoning districts in which their properties are located or seek counsel from a Chuhak & Tecson Real Estate attorney to help them through the process. Failing to do so can result in costly delays to a project. 
Client alert authored by Connor J. Valentyn (312 855 6413), Associate.
This Chuhak & Tecson, P.C. communication is intended only to provide information regarding developments in the law and information of general interest. It is not intended to constitute advice regarding legal problems and should not be relied upon as such.