CITY HALL — A controversial Pilsen metal shredder has been approved by the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.
The $30 million shredder, set to go up on 15 acres at Loomis Street just south of Cermak Road, was approved by the board Friday evening, according to Peter Strazzabosco, deputy commissioner of the Chicago Department of Planning and Development.
This is the final decision on the shredder project, which does not need to go before city council for a vote, Strazzabosco said.
Friday's hearing went long into the night, with arguments from both sides over environmental issues and the shredder's proximity to a neighborhood high school.
Early on during the hearing, Pure Metal Recycling — the company looking to build the shredder — presented a letter of support from Solis, who had previously not taken a public stance on the shredder.
The alderman did not respond to requests for comment.
Pure Metal Recycling is largely owned by Brett Baron, whose father, Larry Baron, is president of the Bridgeport-based Acme Metal Refinery, which previously donated nearly $33,000 to a campaign fund of Ald. Danny Solis (25th). In August, the Bridgeport metal refinery was raided by agents from the Internal Revenue Service’s Criminal Investigation Division.
Pure Metal Recycling President Mark Swedlow has said the claim that the two companies are connected is inaccurate.
Community groups like Pilsen Alliance and the Pilsen Environmental Rights and Reform Organization — which brought about 40 members turned out dressed in shirts with red slashes over the word "metal shredder" — said the shredder would be too close to Benito Juarez Community Academy, 1450 W. Cermak Road.
“Why on Earth would we want to put another shredder in this neighborhood when we already have one three blocks away?” said Vicky Lugo of Pilsen Alliance, referring to Sims Metal Management, Pilsen's existing shredder, which is already several blocks from Juarez.
Zoning Chairman Jonathan Swain questioned the both of the groups' concerns over the hazards posed by the Pure Metal shredder to students at Juarez, given the Sims Metal Shredder's proximity to Juarez.
"From an environmental point of view, [Sims] still is a metal shredder. Why aren't you guys taking action against them?" Swain said.
Jerry Mead-Lucero of the Pilsen Environmental Rights group responded that his group had actively opposed the Sims facility in the past, and said that during a more recent meeting with Danny Solis, the group had expressed their opposition to the shredder, saying they didn't want "another Sims" coming into the neighborhood.
At Friday’s hearing, representatives from Sims also criticized the additional traffic congestion the company believes Pure Metal’s trucks would cause.
The proposed facility would have an indoor contained shredder, which Pure Metal said would reduce air pollution. Trucks would unload inside to minimize the impact on local traffic and would also be required to turn off their engines while unloading.
After meeting with the Chicago Department of Transportation, Pure Metal scrapped an initial plan to landscape a canal along the Chicago River. Now the company plans to use an existing dock on the south end of the property for barge transport.