Alderman-elect Gardiner could be faced with decisions on several zoning projects
by BRIAN NADIG
45th Ward Alderman-elect Jim Gardiner plans to form a "preliminary blue ribbon committee" to create a zoning review process because he could face decisions on several ward development projects later this year.
A Plan Commission hearing on a proposed 10-story senior living complex at 4747 W. Irving Park Road has been delayed for several months, and, according to the city Department of Planning and Development, there is no anticipated date for the hearing.
Also in the Six Corners area, a redevelopment plan that could call for hundreds of apartments on the former Sears site at 4730 W. Irving Park Road is in the works, and a developer reportedly has purchased the former Sabatino’s restaurant, 4441 W. Irving Park Road.
In Jefferson Park, the redevelopment of the former firehouse at 4835 N. Lipps Ave. is months away, and a zoning change would be required for the current plan to convert the two-story structure to four stories. Preservation and historical groups have expressed concerns about the plan.
It also will not be known until early May if the developer of the planned mixed-income building at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. will receive low-income housing tax credits for the project.
In addition, a lawsuit challenging the zoning for the planned 16-story building at 4849 N. Lipps Ave. has been pending for 1 1/2 years and may not be settled for months, and a spokeswoman for TCF Bank has said that the company is considering redevelopment options for its branch at 4930 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Gardiner said that residents often brought up zoning and development issues while he knocked on doors during the campaign.
Gardiner said that the "blue ribbon committee" would include representatives of the neighborhood and business organizations and that he wants a zoning process that is transparent.
Currently the ward has an advisory committee, but Alderman John Arena keeps its meetings closed to the public and does not release minutes or agendas of the meetings. Arena has said that the committee is not a decision-making body and that as a courtesy to constituents he holds community meetings on zoning proposals.
Several years ago, the Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s office claiming that the closed-door meetings violated the Illinois Open Meetings Act. The attorney general’s office ruled that there was no violation because Arena by himself does not constituent a government entity.
Traditionally, the City Council has deferred local zoning decisions to the alderman of the affected ward, but some aldermen have called for the end of aldermanic prerogative in an effort to bring more affordable housing to the city.
Meanwhile, Gardiner and Arena shook hands at the March 14 meeting of the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce, and Arena told Gardiner that he would assist with the transition.
"We hope to make this as smooth as possible," Gardiner told the chamber. "I thank (Arena) for the 8 years he served."
Gardiner said that he is planning to have his aldermanic office "centrally located" in the ward and that a team effort will be needed to address any challenges facing the community.
"This is ‘all hands on deck,’ as we say in the firehouse," said Gardiner, who will be taking a leave of absence as a Chicago firefighter for the next 4 years. "We need everybody’s input, and we value it. We respect it."
Gardiner said that his constituents can expect the following: "I’m determined not to have anyone outwork me, (and) I’d rather tell you the truth and lose your vote (than lie) and retain it."
Editor’s note: Publisher Brian Nadig is the president of the Jefferson Park Chamber of Commerce.