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Thursday, September 20, 2012

No, a Fraternity House is not a Monastery

While I suspect the outcome of this case will not be shocking to any of my readers, an Illinois district court recently rejected an argument that a fraternity house did not require a special use permit under the City of Chicago's zoning code because the proposed use was a "monastery," a permitted use in the zoning district, rather than a fraternity.

In Myers v. City of Chicago (N.D. Illinois 2012), the plaintiff purchased a home near Loyola University in Chicago, intending to rent the home to the Sigma Pi Fraternity.  Under Chicago's zoning regulations, a fraternity is a special use.  The plaintiff argued that no special use permit was necessary because the fraternity was actually a monastery.  Nor surprisingly, the City disagreed with the plaintiff's interpretation, so the plaintiff filed suit, claiming, among other things, that the City violated his equal protection rights. 

The court first rejected the plaintiff's argument that Sigma Pi's use of the home would be consistent with a monastery because Sigma Pi’s mission statement was “In the Service of God and Man.”  The court then rejected the plaintiff's argument that the City violated his equal protection rights because a nearby sorority house was not required to obtain a special use permit.  The court determined that the plaintiff was not "similarly situated" to the sorority because it was approved prior to the zoning code change in 1970 and, therefore, was a legal nonconforming use.

Thanks to RLUIPA Defense for reporting this case.


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