Alderman Sposato seeks to downzone affordable housing site in Jefferson Park, hopes for revisions
by BRIAN NADIG
Alderman Nicholas Sposato (38th) has filed an ordinance to downzone the site of a planned 48-unit affordable housing project in Jefferson Park that he hopes could lead to revisions in the development.
“I just want some negotiating power to make sure it’s right for the community,” Sposato said Wednesday.
Sposato said that the development, which recently was approved for federal low-income housing tax credit, would be a better fit for neighborhood if it were scaled back in size given that a previous plan for the parcel was less dense, calling for 24 townhouses with two-car garages.
In 2016 the site was rezoned to RT-4 to accommodate the townhouses, which were never built, and the same zoning also would allow for the planned 48 apartments, which would be housed in two four-story buildings at 6001-11 W. Lawrence Ave. Thirty-four parking spaces are planned.
“If it were 36 units, it would be a lot easier to accept. If there were one parking space for each unit, it would be easier to accept,” Sposato said. “And $1,854 (as the top rent). How’s that affordable?” Monthly rents would range from $444 to $1,854, with the size ranging from studios to three-bedroom units.
The proposed ordinance would change the site’s zoning to RS-2, which is intended primarily for single-family homes. The vacant parcel, which was once home to a Resurrection Medical facility, measures about 48,000 square feet.
Sposato said that he did not find out about the project until July 1 when contacted by Nadig Newspapers and that while subsequent talks with the developer, Full Circle Communities, have gone well, the downzoning would provide an extra negotiating tool for the community. The project has been in the works since last year, and Sposato said that Full Circle has apologized for apparent miscommunications.
“I never said I’m against the project. How can you be for or against something you knew nothing about,” Sposato said. “I put together a fact sheet and after residents have seen it, more are accepting of (the project).”
Preferences would be given to veterans and those with a disability, Sposato said. The units would be reserved for households earning between $20,000 and $75,000 a year.
The site of another Full Circle project in Jefferson Park was the subject of a downzoning ordinance filed by former 45th Ward alderman John Arena in 2016. That downzoning was intended to stop a plan for a self-storage facility at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. so that half of the property could be used for a dense housing development. A construction permit already had been issued for the storage warehouse plan, which called for the retrofitting of an existing industrial building that took up the entire parcel, but the city later canceled the permit after Arena had the downzoning filed.
The property owner, LSC Development, filed a lawsuit objecting to the downzoning, and the city settled the lawsuit, agreeing to let LSC build a new storage warehouse on half of the 1.54-acre parcel. LSC then sold the other half to Full Circle, which is building a 75-unit, mixed-income housing project on the southern half of the site.
LSC’s lawsuit against the city was unusual because most developers decide not to file a legal challenge because it could be stuck in court for years. Many just end up revising their plans or abandon the project.
Sposato’s ordinance could spark a debate on aldermanic privilege, which traditionally has resulted in an alderman having control over local matters in his or her ward.
Sposato said that it may be too late for the project to be revised but that he is going to fight the plan for now because he wants “to make sure the community has some say in it.”