Rezoning Threat Prompts Federal Lawsuit

Rezoning, Naperville business law attorneyWhen the Double Door music venue was evicted from its Wicker Park location in February, the fight had already been going on for more than a year. Now, a related lawsuit has been filed in federal court and the issue shows no signs of being resolved anytime soon.

As a business law attorney, I have been following the case with great interest because the matter has evolved to include concerns over zoning. I understand the importance of proper zoning and remaining in compliance with zoning restrictions. In this case, however, there have been allegations that a government official may be seeking to rezone the property as a form of retaliation against the property owner.

A Local Icon

The Double Door has been part of the Chicago music scene since it opened in 1994 and has hosted national acts such as the Rolling Stones and Kanye West. However, when the venue’s lease was set to expire in October of 2015, the venue’s owners failed to properly submit their intent to renew their lease for its Milwaukee Avenue location. The following month, the building’s owners attempted to evict the Double Door, a process that was not resolved until February of this year when a judge found in favor of the building’s owner.

Questionable Motives

During the months that followed, a Chicago alderman brought proposals before the City Council Zoning Committee to change the zoning on the venue’s former location. The building’s owner, however, believed that the proposed changes were intended to punish him for not renewing the Double Door’s lease. The owner of the property filed a lawsuit in federal court claiming that his civil rights were violated by the alderman who proposed the changes—who was also a “friend” of the owner’s former tenants.

In the suit, the owner alleges that the proposed zoning changes would all but eliminate any commercial tenants from occupying the space. The suit also makes reference to a confrontation between the alderman and the building owner which was recorded on video and released to local news outlets. The video shows the alderman telling the owner that the building will not have a tenant for three years, suggesting it within his power to prevent the owner from generating income with the available space. The owner claims that the entire situation occurred because the alderman wanted to help his “friends” keep the Double Door in its previous location.

Rezoning Moves Forward

While the federal lawsuit is still pending, the City Council Zoning Committee approved a version of the alderman’s proposal this week. The approved plan is less restrictive than the original proposal, but would still require aldermanic approval for certain commercial uses. The full City Council will have the chance to consider the change sometime in the next few weeks.

The Double Door has not yet announced plans for a new location.

Let Us Help

Zoning issues can be complex under the best of circumstances. When they involve possible threats from local officials, matters become even more challenging. If you are looking to have property rezoned for commercial purposes, an experienced Naperville business law attorney can provide the representation you need. Call 630-756-1160 for a confidential consultation at The Gierach Law Firm today.




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