Zoning Committee adjourns before voting on Northwest Hwy project
by BRIAN NADIG
In a surprise move, the City Council Zoning Committee at its March 27 meeting adjourned without taking action on a proposal for a five-story storage warehouse and a residential development at 5150 N. Northwest Highway.
The adjournment occurred after committee member Alderman Ed Burke (14th) said that there was no quorum to conduct business. The meeting lasted 7 hours, but the Northwest Highway proposal was the last item discussed, and after three hours of testimony on the project, several committee members had already left.
It is not clear how the lack of decision by the committee will affect the project. The developer, LSC Development, was seeking to start construction on the warehouse this spring, while plans for the residential project have not been finalized.
LSC is planning to sell half of the 1.54-acre parcel to a residential developer. The current plan calls for a mixed-income, seven-story housing project with 100 units.
A representative of LSC said after the meeting that the item may return to the committee’s agenda in April but that more time is needed to reflect on what the delay will mean for the project.
Also at the meeting, Burke raised concerns about a settlement agreement which LSC and the city agreed to in response to a lawsuit that LSC had filed against the city.
Burke said that the council had not been properly notified of the settlement agreement and that he did not recognize the name of the person who signed the agreement on behalf of the city. Burke said that he wanted to make sure that the signer had the authority to do so.
LSC filed the lawsuit after Alderman John Arena (45th) had the site downzoned to stop the original project, which called for the existing industrial building on the site to be retrofitted into a storage facility. At the time there were no plans for apartments on the site.
Before the council approved the downzoning last year, LSC received a construction permit for the project, but the city later revoked the permit.
Under the settlement agreement, Arena and zoning administrator Patricia Scuderio agreed to support a plan which called for a new warehouse to be constructed on half the site and an unspecified residential project to be built on the other half. LSC agreed to the new plan, and the lawsuit was dropped, but LSC retained the right to reinstate the lawsuit if the site is not rezoned to accommodate the new plan within a year.
News of the settlement agreement raised concerns that Arena had agreed to rezoning the site without getting input from the community. The settlement agreement was signed before Arena held a community meeting on the project, and the agreement was not mentioned at the meeting. News of the agreement broke about 10 days a later.
Gladstone Park Neighborhood Association president Joe DiCiaula testified that since the settlement agreement required Arena to support the rezoning, it was up to the committee to represent the interests of residents who oppose the project. “Since Arena is legally obligated not to represent his residents, we ask you to represent us,” he said.
Several housing organizations and the Service Employees International Union support the project, while it is opposed by the the Gladstone Park and Jefferson Park neighborhood associations and local chambers of commerce. The project has sparked a flood of comments on social media.