Restraining order on Northwest Hwy project denied, but another could be sought once zoning approved
by BRIAN NADIG
A Cook County Circuit Court judge on April 13 denied a motion to place a temporary restraining order on the zoning approval process for a proposed self-storage warehouse and residential development at 5150 N. Northwest Highway.
A group of home owners and a local business owner filed the lawsuit challenging a legal settlement which required Alderman John Arena (45th) and city administrator Patricia Scuderio to support rezoning the property to accommodate the development.
Thursday’s ruling did not affect the status of the lawsuit, and it is expected that another restraining order request to stop the project will be filed if the City Council were to approve the zoning change.
The settlement agreement came about after the site’s developer sued the city because the city downzoned the property and revoked a construction permit, which allowed for the retrofitting of the existing industrial building on the 1.54-acre parcel into a storage facility. Arena opposed plans to have only a storage facility on the site.
On Thursday afternoon Judge David Atkins issued his ruling after a 40-minute hearing in the morning.
“This afternoon he issued a ruling stating that the temporary restraining order was not warranted at this time because there is not an ‘emergency’ or ‘irreparable harm’ at this moment.
“There was no ruling on the merits of our case, and indeed the court noted that if the PD application (zoning ordinance) is approved by the City Council, we can pursue the temporary restraining order at that time. The case moves forward, with a case management conference set for May 16,” plaintiff’s attorney Peter Stasiewicz said in a statement.
The lawsuit claims that the settlement agreement was attempt by the city to circumvent the normal zoning process by securing approvals from key figures before the community was notified of the project.
Plaintiffs also argue that the settlement agreement puts pressure on others to approve the project because the developer could be entitled to monetary damages if the zoning were to be denied. Plan Commission member Michael Kelly, who also is the superintendent of the Chicago Park District, cited the agreement as a reason for his “yes” vote at a March 16 commission hearing.
If the zoning is not in place by July, the site’s owner, LSC Development, can have its lawsuit reinstated under the terms of the settlement agreement.
The City Council Zoning Committee is expected to hold a second hearing on the proposal in May. At a March 27 hearing, a committee member expressed concern that the settlement agreement had not been submitted to the council for review.
Project opponents have said that the development, which calls for 100 mixed-income apartments and five- and seven-story tall buildings, would be too tall and dense and that the proposal lacks sufficient parking and would worsen overcrowding at area schools.
Supporters have said that the opposition is being fueled by fears associated with the low-income housing that is planned for the site. Between 20 and 28 of the units would be reserved for tenants chosen by the Chicago Housing Authority.
Arena has said that the project would help fulfill his campaign promise to increase density in Jefferson Park. There are announced plans for 300 new apartments near the Jefferson Park CTA Terminal, 4917 N. Milwaukee Ave., but additional projects are in the works. He has said that the increased density would help revitalize the struggling business district.
The project’s residential developer, Full Circle Communities, is planning to apply for a Home Depot grant that would require 20 of the 100 apartments to be reserved for veterans.