Advisory panel votes against condo proposal
by BRIAN NADIG
The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee at its Jan. 4 meeting rejected a proposed 30-unit condominium building and parking garage at 6649-55 N. Oliphant Ave. despite support for the project from the Edison Park Community Council.
Committee members voted 7-4 against the zoning proposal, and Alderman Anthony Napolitano said that he will adhere by the committee’s recommendation. The proposal drew large crowds to the committee’s meetings, and at one recent meeting all but a few audience members raised their hand against the project.
The proposed four-story building, featuring an Italian Renaissance design, would be built on a 36,000-square-foot parcel, which backs up to railroad tracks and is located near the Edison Park Metra Station. The parking garage would be on the first two floors.
At several meetings, committee member Frank Icuss, who also is a board member of the community council, expressed concern that the crowd may not have been representative of the neighborhood. Last fall the council voted 11- 2 in favor of the project.
Icuss said that rejecting the plan could be risky because under the site’s existing M1-1 zoning, developer Troy Realty could build a parking structure or a variety of commercial projects without any community input. "None of these things are as attractive or useful as a condo building," he said.
While M1-1 zoning does not allow residential uses, it permits a variety of commercial uses, including trade schools, warehouses, medical services, offices and manufacturing. A car wash on the site closed last year.
Reasons given by committee members for opposing the project include concerns that the parking garage would generate too much traffic and that the 48-foot building would be too tall. Several members also said that the opposition expressed by residents at the meetings was too strong to ignore.
Plans called for 30 tandem parking spaces which would be reserved for the condominium owners and 94 parking spaces which would be used for paid commuter parking during the day and which would be leased to valet companies in the evening. Valet companies for area restaurants and bars currently park up to 70 cars on the site each night.
Project officials contended that the garage would reduce the number of cars which circulate through the area as motorists look for parking, but many residents did not agree with that assessment. They argued that the garage would attract more vehicles to the area and increase congestion on Oliphant, where traffic backs up due to a railroad crossing.
At one time Troy Realty owner Hubert Cioromski said that he would be willing to remove a floor of parking from the project, but the plans presented to the committee were never altered to reflect that change.
Napolitano said that he told project officials early in the process that the proposal would be a tough sell to residents. At a meeting last year, project opponents pushed Napolitano to end the committee’s deliberations and to reject the plan, but he said that it was important to let the ward’s zoning review process play out before any decision is made.
Napolitano and his predecessors as 41st Ward alderman have followed the recommendations of the advisory committee, which consists of representatives from community groups throughout the ward, since former alderman Brian Doherty created the advisory group in the early 1990s.
Meetings on the project also included some political overtones, as Napolitano disagreed with an assessment of the project which 41st Ward Democratic Committeeman Tim Heneghan e-mailed to constituents. Heneghan is an ally of former alderman Mary O’Connor, who lost to Napolitano in 2015.