Chicago Modifies its Prohibition on the Division of Improved Zoning Lots

In December 2022, the Chicago City Council adopted Ordinance 2022-3777, a series of technical revisions to the City’s Municipal Code. Embedded in this update is an amendment to provisions of the Chicago Zoning Ordinance relating to the division of improved zoning lots.

Previously, an improved zoning lot could not be divided into two or more zoning lots unless the resulting lots complied with all of the bulk regulations of the zoning district where the property is located. The practical effect of this provision was to prevent the sale of land when such a sale would result in any zoning nonconformity. Completing such a sale would frequently require seeking relief from the Zoning Board of Appeals in the form of variations to bring the future divided zoning lots into a conforming condition.

Under the new change, divisions or sales of portions of improved zoning lots that do not increase the extent of existing nonconformities — including nonconforming setbacks — will now be allowed without having to seek zoning relief to allow the sale.

For example, consider a scenario in which a property owner of a campus containing a former convent, church, school, and rectory desires to sell portions of the site to a developer for adaptive reuse of the structures. Before this change, the property owner and housing developer would likely be required to undertake a lengthy zoning process by seeking various forms of relief from the Zoning Board of Appeals. The campus is likely a “single zoning lot,” and the division by sale of a portion of the lot would likely result in zoning nonconformities on the newly created lots. 

Under the new modified code, where the division does not increase the extent of nonconformities – the sale or division of the lot is no longer prohibited.

This zoning text amendment is a minor code modification that has the potential to save headaches for property owners and developers, facilitate the development of much needed housing, and unlock value by expediting the adaptive use of older buildings located on improved zoning lots.

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