Saturday, September 15, 2012

Fraternity House Is Not A Monastery For Zoning Purposes

In Myers v. City of Chicago, (ND IL, Sept. 12, 2012), and Illinois federal district court rejected an equal protection claim by plaintiff who purchased a house on Chicago's North Shore Avenue intending to rent it for use as a fraternity house to Sigma Pi Fraternity.  However, fraternities and sororities in this area require a special use permit-- except for those located in the area before 1970 zoning changes established this requirement.  Plaintiff argued that the city should treat his proposed use of the house as a "monastery"-- a permitted use in the area-- because of the Sigma Pi's mission statement: "In the Service of God and Man."  The court concluded:
No matter how closely Sigma Pi hews to the letter of its motto, Myers has fallen far short of proving that the Sigma Pi fraternity brothers are actual Religious Brothers, that is, in the words of the ordinance, "persons (such as nuns or monks) under religious vows." The defendants’ interpretation of this language to exclude fraternity houses therefore passes the rational-basis test.
Courthouse News Service reports on the decision.