CITY HALL — More than a dozen 42nd Ward residents presented a petition Tuesday to stall the latest Wolf Point development vote before the Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards.
But as Ald. James Cappleman (46th) emphasized after more than an hour of testimony from opponents and supporters of the development, the project has won the support of many residents and city departments, and ultimately, of the zoning committee, which approved Phase 1 of the plan Tuesday.
"Petitions don't influence me because I am not clear that residents are making an informed decision at the time they sign the petition," Cappleman said. "What does influence me is evidence of community participation, and I have seen that. The other thing that highly influences me is expert feedback from our city departments."
There was plenty of that, too, with endorsements from Kim Rice of Friends of the Chicago River; Stephen Sclickman, executive director at UIC's Urban Transportation Center; and John Carpenter, executive vice president of the Chicagoland Chamber of Commerce.
Ald. Brendan Reilly (42nd) compared the hour of testimony at Tuesday's zoning vote to the movie "Groundhog Day," where a single day's events are endlessly repeated. The Wolf Point development has been heavily debated in the 14 months that the proposal has bounced between community meetings and City Hall.
"It's been a lengthy process that really worked," Reilly said. "I'm sad that not everyone is thrilled with the project, but I think [that] a year from where we started ... this is a vast, vast improvement to what was proposed initially."
Some residents had expressed concerns that the project — on the Chicago River near the Apparel Center — would bring too much automobile and pedestrian congestion to the area.
Reilly co-hosted three public meetings with the River North Residents' Association and Fulton River District Association before the Planning Commission approved the first of three development phases on Jan. 24.
"In my tenure as being chairman of this committee, I've never seen a more comprehensive effort," Ald. Danny Solis (25th) said after Reilly's remarks.
"I just take my hat off to you, because I think this is a model" execution of the process, Solis said. "This is a model of what we need to be doing."
The zoning committee vote scheduled for Feb. 11 was deferred to Tuesday over a transcription error in the text.
Ted Wolff, principal at Wolff Landscape Architecture, whose firm designed the public plaza and who attended each community meeting along with the developers, said he had no doubt that Fulton River District residents' complaints would eventually be put to rest.
"I think we had a good project from the beginning, and Ald. Reilly's input, and the community input, and city agencies' input only made it better," Wolff said.