Hearing postponed on 5150 N. Northwest Hwy.
by BRIAN NADIG
The City Council Zoning Committee postponed a May 9 hearing on a proposed self-storage facility and housing development at 5150 N. Northwest Hwy. and instead will hold a special meeting on the controversial project.
A date for the special meeting was not known as of press time Tuesday afternoon.
In addition, Alderman John Arena (45th) announced last week that he plans to meet with local organizations which oppose the project prior to the committee’s special meeting.
The committee held a 3-hour hearing on the proposal in March but never voted on the project because of a lack of a quorum and concerns about a settlement agreement, which requires Arena and zoning administrator Patricia Scuderio to support the zoning change. The agreement was in response to a lawsuit which the site’s owner, LSC Development, filed last year after Arena had the property downzoned to stop plans to build only a storage facility there.
Arena supports a plan to build a seven-story, 100-unit apartment building next to the storage facility. The building would include at least 20 Chicago Housing Authority-subsidized units and 60 affordable housing units.
Arena said that opposition to the building is being fueled by "a desire to keep people from certain backgrounds out of our area." The Service Employees International Union, Neighbors for Affordable Housing in Jefferson Park and Showing Up for Racial Justice in Chicago are among the organizations supporting the proposal.
Neighbors for Affordable Housing has said that "residents of Jefferson Park, along with other Chicagoans, are ready to do our part to end the shameful legacy of segregation on the Northwest Side."
In a letter to committee chairman Alderman Danny Solis (25th), representatives of local neighborhood and business groups charged that Arena "wants to make this about race and his misconception that we oppose affordable housing. Again, this could not be further from the truth." Those groups, including the Jefferson Park and Gladstone Park neighborhood associations and chambers, have said that the issues are height, density, school overcrowding and a lack of transparency, as city officials agreed to the zoning change as part of a settlement agreement before gathering community feedback.
"Alderman Solis, we believe there is a solution that would work for all involved, but our alderman needs to communicate with us, not at us," the letter said.
Northwest Side Unite has collected more than 5,300 signatures on a petition against the project and raised more than $21,000 to pay for legal fees for a lawsuit which residents filed to stop the project.
Some opponents to the project have expressed concern that a compromise may not be possible given that the agreement ties the city’s hands. LSC can have its lawsuit reinstated if the site is not rezoned to B3-5, the densest classification for community shopping districts, and then to a planned development by the end of July.
LSC’s lawsuit seeks monetary damages from the city and re-issuance of the project’s original construction permit, which called for only a storage facility on the 1.5-acre site.
Demonstrations for and against the project were held in front of the development site last weekend.