Jeff Park association organizes zoning protest in front of alderman’s office
by BRIAN NADIG
An hour-long protest against recent zoning projects in the 45th Ward took place Saturday morning, Oct. 29, in front of Alderman John Arena’s office, 4754 N. Milwaukee Ave.
“People ask what is our goal. It’s to stop the up-zoning,” resident Steve Neidenbach said.
The Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association organized the protest, distributing 1,500 fliers to homes and businesses. About 50 people attended the protest, although not all of them picketed at once.
“We’d like Alderman Arena to listen to the residents, not the developers,” association president Robert Bank said.
A woman carried a “don’t crowd me in” sign in reference to the density of the projects which the association opposes.
The affected properties are 5338-60 W. Argyle St. (48 apartments), 5201 W. Lawrence Ave. (39 apartments), 4849 N. Lipps Ave. (103 apartments, 250-space parking garage), 5629 W. Higgins Ave. (five condominiums), 4812 W. Montrose Ave. (16 apartments) and 6223-27 W. Gregory St. (two houses). Arena has announced his support for the projects.
Association Zoning Committee chairwoman Colleen Murphy said that about 940 people have signed a petition against the Lipps project, which calls for a 13-story building next to the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave. Two years ago about 1,500 people signed a petition against the Argyle project, which was a contentious issue during last year’s aldermanic race.
Arena has a policy of holding a community meeting for every zoning project in the ward, but he often gets input from his advisory committee, which includes architects and urban planners, prior to the community meeting. The advisory meetings are closed to the public.
“He says he’s open and transparent. If he is, then everything should be open to the public,” association board member Ron Ernst said. Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office has ruled that the closed advisory meetings do not violate the state’s Open Meetings Act.
Neidenbach said that he attended Arena’s community meeting on the Gregory proposal and that there should have been a follow-up meeting given the strong objections raised by area home owners. He said that the project would create more parking problems in the neighborhood and increase congestion in area alleys.
The association has been at odds with Arena for several years, and last year a group of former association members formed a new neighborhood group, Jefferson Park Forward. Arena has said that the area needs more residential units to support the business district, and both Arena and Jefferson Park Forward have called for increased density around transit centers.
Arena was not at his office during the protest. An Arena aide told residents that they had the right to protest but asked them not to block the door.