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Vote on Near North Condo Project Likely to Be Tabled by New Alderman

By Geoff Ziezulewicz | January 13, 2013 8:14am | Updated on January 13, 2013 8:32pm
 Some Bucktown residents are opposing a planned 50-unit condo development on the 1700 block of North Winnebago Avenue.
Some Bucktown residents are opposing a planned 50-unit condo development on the 1700 block of North Winnebago Avenue.
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DNAinfo/Geoff Ziezulewicz

BUCKTOWN — A controversial condo development in Bucktown is expected to be put on hold at a City Council zoning meeting Monday, halting a plan that some locals worried had been on the fast track for approval.

MCZ Development LLC hopes to build two 25-unit buildings on a vacant parcel of land on the 1700 block of North Winnebago Avenue and has sought a zoning change in recent months to start construction.

The development's fate initially rested with Ald. Joe Moreno (1st). But as new ward lines take effect in 2015, Ald. Scott Waguespack (32nd) will also have a say in the matter as he begins overseeing that territory.

Waguespack spokesman Paul Sajovec said last week that the alderman has heard from concerned residents and “doesn’t think it’s quite at a place where we’re ready to support a change in zoning.”

Sajovec said any decision on the new development will fall on both the old and new aldermen in this time of transition, but Moreno spokesman Matt Bailey said last week that Moreno will defer to Waguespack.

The latest development comes as welcome news to opponents of the development, who claim Moreno dismissed local concerns that the condos would crowd the neighborhood, lead to less street parking and increase traffic woes in an area already dubbed the “condo jungle” by some.

Residents also worried that a change in zoning would allow businesses and offices on the property, which could also add congestion to a crowded area.

At one community meeting in May, residents voted against a slightly larger version of the plan.

But a vote at a little-publicized meeting held on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah in September resulted in a tie before Moreno’s staff produced a handful of votes from supporters who weren’t at the meeting, according to several people who attended the meeting.

Leah Viands, a resident opposed to the development, questioned whether the final count in favor of the project was legitimate.

As of Friday, a Change.org online petition had collected more than 300 signatures against the development.

Wicker Park Committee President Teddy Varndell and other opponents are also questioning whether Moreno’s perceived disregard for resident concern was linked to the $3,000 in political contributions the alderman received from MCZ head Michael Lerner in March and June, according to state records.

“It just seems weird," Varndell said. "It’s like, why?”

“It adds to the story," said Raymond Krauze, 40, an attorney and local resident. "Why is Ald. Moreno so adamant about this particular development, at this particular time, at that particular plan?”

Moreno declined repeated requests for comment on the issue.

A call to MCZ's corporate headquarters reached a number that was disconnected. A lawyer listed on a notice at the development site as a point of contact did not return calls for comment.