Residents voice concern on Milwaukee Ave. liquor store


Residents’ objections to a planned liquor store at 5636 N. Milwaukee Ave. which has the support of Alderman John Arena (45th) is one of several recent zoning and development issues in the ward.

Area resident Debbie Dombrowski said that she was surprised to read in a recent article that an aldermanic aide reported that residents voiced support for the proposed 1,600-square-foot liquor store at a community meeting which Arena held on the project in February.

"There were five residents at the meeting, and four were against it and the fifth said nothing," Dombrowski said. "We don’t want any more liquor stores in the neighborhood."

Dombrowski said that there are 10 taverns and six liquor stores on Milwaukee Avenue between Central Avenue and Devon Avenue. She said that residents also were concerned about the store’s planned closing time of 1 a.m. on weekends and that the store, a portion of which would face houses on Marmora Avenue, would have to attract customers from other parts of the city to be successful.

"It’s supposed to be a high-scale liquor store, but we’re a blue-collar neighborhood," Dombrowski said.

Arena’s chief of staff Owen Brugh said last week that his earlier misstatement that residents did not object to the store was the result of an inter-office miscommunication but that Arena is "supportive of a high-end establishment there." Brugh said that the store’s owner has a clean track record of running other liquor stores in the city.

Arena has exempted the area from a proposed moratorium on liquor sales which would prohibit new packaged liquor stores in almost all commercial areas is the ward. Brugh said that a plan of operation with conditions that are attached to a store’s license can be put in place to restrict the operating hours and to prohibit the sale of single-serve containers of beer and half-pints of liquor.

Area resident April Warner said that allowing the store to open is about generating tax revenue for the city as opposed to respecting the wishes of residents. "A liquor store is a liquor store," Warner said. "I don’t care if you put a craft beer on the counter."

Warner said that she and many residents who live less that 2 blocks from the site never received a mailed invitation to the community meeting. Zoning applicants in the ward are required by Arena to mail notification letters to home owners who live within 500 feet of a site, more than double what is required under the law, Brugh said.

The owner of the store recently filed an application for a special use with the Zoning Board of Appeals. A special use is required for liquor stores under the B3-1 Community Shopping District zoning of the site.

Residents also have expressed concern about plans to reopen a convenience store at 5530 N. Milwaukee Ave., where a liquor license is pending for the new operator of the store, Warner said. She said that some customers of the previous store would throw bottles on the block and also check for unlocked parked cars on the street, she said.

The operator is familiar with previous problems at the store and has agreed to a plan of operation which will address residents’ concerns, Brugh said. The operator was unable to apply for a liquor license until he agreed to reduce the size of the store so that it would be more than 100 feet from a day care center on the same block because new liquor stores are not allowed within 100 feet of day care centers, churches, schools, hospitals and libraries.

Also in the ward, officials at a church which recently opened in the basement of a commercial building at 4803 N. Milwaukee Ave. have agreed to move out because the B1-2 zoning of the site does not allow religious assemblies unless a special use permit is obtained, Brugh said. A leasing agent for the site apparently misled church operators into believing that a church was a permitted use, he said.

Church officials have been cooperative, and they were given a list of possible new locations in the ward which are zoned for religious use, Brugh said. About 3 years ago the city forced an unlicensed nightclub at the same location to close after it had been operating there for many months.

The Chicago Plan Commission on April 23 approved an amendment to a residential planned development at 3670-3738 N. Milwaukee Ave. to build 49 single-family homes on the 4.1-acre site. The City Council approved a plan to build 57 townhouses and 16 single-family houses on the former site of the Riddell football helmet factory in 2007, but the project was never built.

The development recently was revised to include wider streets so that they meet city standards and come under the jurisdictions of the city. Under previous plans subdivision’s home owners association would maintain the streets.

The site plan also has been revised so that the development could be expanded onto an industrial site at 3692 N. Milwaukee Ave., which the developer for the project has been unable to acquire. Brugh said that several more homes could be built on a street that would run through the industrial site.

At a recent hearing on a proposed cultural museum that would be opened by "Star Wars" creator George Lucas, Arena urged that sites in the 45th Ward, including a bank property which is for sale in the Six Corners shopping district, be considered for the museum. Arena reportedly testified that more museums are needed in neighborhoods.

Northwest Chicago Historical Society researcher Frank Suerth suggested that the museum be constructed over the Kennedy Expressway near the Jefferson Park CTA Blue Line stop. About 45 years ago the city considered building a parking garage over the Kennedy that would connect to the Blue Line stop.

Chicago is competing with San Francisco for the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum.