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Burger King on Clark Street Wins Alderman's Support

By Benjamin Woodard | March 25, 2013 2:21pm

ROGERS PARK — A Burger King magnate's plan to open a drive-through restaurant on Clark Street got the support of the alderman Monday.

Even though opponents of the proposal say the fast-food joint would attract loitering and violate animal rights, Ald. Joe Moore (49th) said in a statement that the "Burger King will be good for the neighborhood and a good corporate citizen."

Moore held a public meeting on the proposal by Adam Velarde, who owns 28 other Burger King franchises in northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin.

Moore said in the statement Velarde had committed to hire workers who live in the neighborhood, call the cops on persistent loiterers and pick up trash around the property.

And the commitments were enough for the alderman to throw his support behind a zoning change required for the one-story, drive-through restaurant at the edge of the Gateway Centre at Clark and Howard streets.

Since news of the proposal broke, some residents organized to try to persuade the alderman to oppose the plan.

Steve Hueffner collected 193 signatures on a petition opposing the restaurant.

Hueffner said he and other community members who gathered at the January public meeting felt a "lack of response" after they raised concerns ranging from increased traffic and pedestrian safety to animal rights and children's health.

Jim Ginderske, a member of Occupy Rogers Park and a former 49th Ward aldermanic candidate, said he was the only member of Moore's zoning and land use advisory committee to oppose the project.

After the committee voted in favor of the proposal last month, Ginderske resigned.

But Moore said the restaurant would bring in more business to the shopping destination already home to a Dominick's and an LA Fitness.

And Moore said it would be inappropriate to use the city's zoning code to address concerns over the quality of Burger King's menu and how much the company pays employees.

"We travel down a slippery slope if we use the quality of a restaurant's food as a criteria for zoning relief," he said. "The key to encouraging good eating habits and reducing the epidemic of obesity is public education, not our zoning code."

Moore said construction would take three months after construction permits are obtained — and if he and his counterparts in the City Council approve the zoning change and the proposal is approved by the Chicago Plan Commission.