Posted by: Patricia Salkin | October 15, 2017

IL Appeals Court Finds Homeless Shelter Qualified as “Government Use” Under Zoning Code

Editor’s Note: This post originally appeared on Ancel Glick’s Municipal Minute Blog and is reposted with permission.  See: http://municipalminute.ancelglink.com/2017/10/homeless-shelter-qualified-as.html

A housing authority took over ownership of property that had previously been used as a private assisted living facility.  The authority stopped operating the assisted-living facility, and the property stood vacant for several years.  After submitting a request for proposals for ways to use the vacant property, the housing authority entered into negotiations to lease the property to a not-for-profit organization called PADS. PADS sought to use the property as a transitional homeless shelter for chronically homeless adults.

The housing authority and PADS approached the county to determine what zoning approvals would be necessary for the operation of a homeless support program on the property. If the county classified PADS’ use as “assisted-living,” a conditional use permit was required.  However, if PADS’ use was classified as “government use,” no conditional use permit was necessary.  PADS submitted a change-in-use application to the county to change the use of the property from “vacant government” to “government use-no assembly space,” which would not require a conditional use permit.

Shortly after the county planning director granted the change-in-use request, several residents appealed the director’s decision to the county’s zoning board of appeals (ZBA).  The county ZBA reversed the director’s decision, finding that the use of the property by PADS was not a “government use,” despite the fact that the housing authority owned the property.

The court analyzed the county’s unified development ordinance, which classified “government use” as a “building or structure owned or leased by a unit of government and used by the unit of government in exercising its statutory authority.”  The residents argued that, since it was PADS that was using the property, and not the housing authority, the “government use” definition did not apply.

The court disagreed with the residents’ argument, citing the fact that the housing authority still owned the property.  The court also noted that the housing authority was authorized by state statute to contract with private entities to further its statutory goals of providing safe and sanitary housing for the disadvantaged. The court found that PADS’ use of the property to provide housing for homeless adults fit squarely within the housing authority’s statutory goals.

Based on all of these findings, the court found that the “government use” classification was proper because the property was (1) owned by the housing authority, a unit of government; and (2) used by the housing authority in exercising its statutory authority to contract with private entities, like PADS, in order to further its statutory goals.  As a result, no conditional use permit was required.

The Housing Authority of the County of Lake v. The Lake County Zoning Board of Appeals, et al., 2017 WL 4533971 (10/11/2017)


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