Land Use Commission upholds rooming house designation for Margarita Inn, special use permit still expired


Daily file photo by Angeli Mittal

Margarita Inn has operated as a fixed-site homeless shelter since March 2021.

Joanna Hou, Diversity and Inclusion Chair

Connections for the Homeless can continue operating the Margarita Inn under a rooming house designation, Evanston’s Land Use Commission ruled Wednesday. 

Connections’ pending acquisition of the inn has caused controversy among residents in the surrounding area. At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Connections used the inn to provide unhoused people with 24-hour shelter and social services support. However, some community members said they want to see more oversight from the city and question the organization’s transparency. 

In a 6-3 decision, commissioners ruled against a joint appeal filed by 4th Ward residents Chris Dillow and John Cleave. The appeal challenged Zoning Administrator Melissa Klotz’s March designation of the inn as a rooming house during Connections’ attempt to acquire the facility. The decision was upheld in the hearing.

Dillow and Cleave’s appeal said the designation is inaccurate because Margarita Inn meets the criteria for a houseless shelter. In an email to The Daily, Dillow said Evanston should consider rejecting the rooming house designation and make a new “rigorous special use designation” to create a safe environment.

“I’m disappointed our appeal was voted down,” Dillow said in the email. “We cannot allow the limitations of our zoning code and negligence of our city government to put people at risk and diminish our inclusive, safe, and supportive city.” 

Nia Tavoularis, Connections’ director of development and communications, previously said the rooming house designation is more accurate to the services Connections offers at the inn. 

The second appeal of the night covered the second half of Klotz’s ruling, which stated the building’s special use permit had expired. The appeal argued the inn’s special use permit did not expire. Andrew Scott, who represents Margarita Inn hotel owner Michael Pure, argued Klotz “lacked authority” to make the decision.

In a 9-0 vote, commissioners rejected the appeal and maintained the inn’s special use permit expired, which means Connections will need to undergo the special use permit process. 

This process involves opportunities for community engagement and public process, Nieuwsma said. Connections is open to creating a legally binding Good Neighbor Agreement with the community, Tavoularis said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @joannah_11

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