JPNA changes longtime stance ‘against any up-zoning’ in area
by BRIAN NADIG
The Jefferson Park Neighborhood Association’s longtime stance "against any up-zoning" in the area no longer will apply.
The association’s revised platform opposes zoning proposals that would allow density that is beyond the "landmark character of the neighborhood" but allows for projects that promote "reasonable" business and neighborhood growth.
About 40 of the association’s 130 members responded to a recent request to vote on a series of platform changes, which are allowed every 3 years. About 62 percent of the respondents supported revising the up-zoning stance.
"I thought it was going to be a little higher (than 62 percent), but it did pass by quite a bit," association vice president and platform committee chairman Brian Wardman said.
In recent years, the group found itself at odds with former 45th Ward Alderman John Arena over his support of several dense zoning proposals, including the planned 48-unit apartment complex at 5352 W. Argyle St. and the planned 114-unit building at 4849 N. Lipps Ave.
Association members also overwhelming renewed their support for four existing stances that call for the support of downzoning in the neighborhood, the dissolution of the Jefferson Park Tax Increment Financing District, the creation of legislation aimed at making TIF districts more accountable to taxpayers and new laws reducing governments’ power of eminent domain.
"If someone wants to downzone their property, we’re not against doing that," Wardman said. In the mid-2000s the Mayfair Civic Association spearheaded efforts to downzone several blocks to preserve the area’s single-family home character, and it is not unusual for an alderman to downzone a large vacant parcel to allow for more community input on its eventual redevelopment.
Wardman added that in some instances, the association could oppose an effort to downzone a property. As an example, he said that the association might object to a downzonig proposal to allow for a parking lot because the site is better suited for a building.
Association members also approved 11 new stances for the platform.
One of those changes states that the association can "seek alliances or coalitions with other organization that share our views."
This change will allow the JPNA to partner with other groups on key issues, such as air quality in the community, Wardman said. The fact that Jefferson Park is a major transportation hub and is located near O’Hare International Airport creates several air pollution problems for the neighborhood, he said.
Another change calls for "transparency in our ward regarding changes through community input throughout the process." The association filed a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s office in an attempt to force the former alderman to open the ward’s advisory committee meetings to the public, but it was ruled that Arena by himself does not constitute a government entity and could keep the meetings closed to the public.
Other platform changes call for more oversight of elected officials, the support of legislation that reduces pollution in Jefferson Park, the end of gerrymandering and an elected school board. The platform also opposes the privatization of city services and calls for keeping art and music an integral part of school curriculums.
Recently installed Alderman Jim Gardiner is scheduled to be the guest speaker at the association’s meeting at 7 p.m. Wednesday, May 29, in the basement of the Congregational Church of Jefferson Park, 5320 W. Giddings St.