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Broadway Youth Center Special Permit Vote Delayed Until January

By Serena Dai | December 10, 2013 8:59am
 South East Lake View Neighbors President Jan Sumrall and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) at December 2013's SELVN meeting
South East Lake View Neighbors President Jan Sumrall and Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) at December 2013's SELVN meeting
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DNAinfo/Serena Dai

LAKEVIEW — The Broadway Youth Center's future on Wellington won't be decided until next month — and it may even end up in a new location on a more commercial street.

South East Lake View Neighbors, a neighborhood group south of Belmont and east of Halsted, asked Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) to push back the Howard Brown affiliate's public hearing date in front of the city Zoning Board of Appeals until January.

Previously, the city was going to decide this month whether the youth health services center could operate with a special use permit at the Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ, 615 W. Wellington Ave.

But the hotly debated issue needs more time to be worked out.

"Let's be real," Tunney said at Monday's meeting. "Everyone's supportive of the mission. Really the concern is 'Is this the ideal location?' ... We're spending a lot of time on this trying to come up with a good solution."

Complaints that the center attracts loitering and drug use unsuitable for a residential street has prompted calls for a more commercial location. Tunney and Howard Brown officials have met with the city's Board of Health to see if Broadway Youth Center could move into a city-owned vacant space at 2849 N. Clark St.

The city has not said yes or no on whether the center could move in, though hopefully they'll make a decision shortly after the holidays, Tunney said. If the city approves, Broadway Youth Center will still require a special use permit and the neighborhood's input, he said.

Howard Brown officials looked at the space on Friday, according to Michelle Wetzel, general counsel for the non-profit. They like the idea of it but still need to figure out whether it's "financially feasible" to build out, she said.

The non-profit has struggled with money this year.

"It's going to cost us," Wetzel said. 

Whether or not the center could move to Clark would "make a huge difference for many people," said resident John Rafkin. That location is "much more appropriate," he said.

"If SELVN's going to vote next month on this, they'll need to know the alternatives," he said.

But beyond the potential for a different location, the "good neighbor agreement" tied to the 12-month special use permit still needs to be examined by all parties.

The neighborhood group's board sent a six-page draft based on resident feedback to Tunney, Howard Brown and the Wellington church on Friday, asking for regular attendance at community meetings and staff to monitor potential loitering. 

Tunney agreed to help enforce the final version of the agreement in regards to city licensing laws, and Wetzel assured residents that a careful eye for loiterers will be included in the document.

Overall, Monday's meeting at the Second Unitarian Church, 656 W. Barry Ave., was far tamer than last month's emotional two-and-half hour, 200 person affair

Less than half of the number of people showed up, and though a row of Broadway Youth Center supporters held colorful posters in their laps, group president Jan Sumrall sharply told them to put them down.

Sumrall, determined to keep the meeting shorter and less dramatic, asked them to leave if they wouldn't put them away. Wetzel then asked supporters to send their comments to the Zoning Board of Appeals instead.

"This is a meeting," Sumrall said. "It's being run according to rules. This is not a rally."

Tunney reminded the group that the ultimate decision on whether the center could operate on Wellington — or Clark — would be up to the Zoning Board of Appeals.

People with strong opinions on the topic need to show up at the January 17th meeting to affect the board's decision, he said.

"As I've said before, the more witnesses that are down there, the more impact it will make on the Zoning Board of Appeals," he said.