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Cubs' Remote Lot Goes Before Zoning Board; Decision Coming Monday

By Ted Cox | June 20, 2014 1:03pm | Updated on June 23, 2014 7:47am
 Ald. Ameya Pawar (l.) talks with local residents as the Cubs' Carl Rice (r.) testifies before the Zoning Board of Appeals Friday.
Ald. Ameya Pawar (l.) talks with local residents as the Cubs' Carl Rice (r.) testifies before the Zoning Board of Appeals Friday.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

CITY HALL — The Cubs' free remote parking lot off Irving Park Road hit snags Friday as the team tried to get a special-use permit from the city's Zoning Board of Appeals.

Board commissioners seemed receptive to arguments that the lot disrupts the surrounding residential community, and sought changes in the way the Cubs load the lot. The Cubs did not immediately agree to the changes, prompting board member Sam Toia to say, "How do I vote if you can't answer this question?"

According to Toia, the five-member board was to vote on the issue in executive session at the end of the day, with the results released Monday.

The Cubs' Carl Rice, vice president of ballpark operations, said the lot had been in use for weekends and night games all season and is functioning well. As part of the Cubs' agreement for more night games passed last year, they agreed to provide free remote parking for 1,000 cars.

 The Cubs' Julian Green defended fans and said the team will work with the community.
The Cubs' Julian Green defended fans and said the team will work with the community.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Ald. Tom Tunney (44th) spoke in support of the lot and its location, saying it was "essential" and calling remote parking "a successful strategy to mitigate traffic around Wrigley Field."

Tunney agreed the lot was well managed. "I have other issues with the Cubs, but this is not an issue I have with the Cubs," he said. "I wish they'd manage their team a little more successfully."

Yet Ald. Ameya Pawar (47th), whose North Center ward contains the lot, spoke to "strongly oppose" the permit, saying the Cubs had started using the Basic Wire and Cable lot at Irving Park and Rockwell Street without first clearing it with the community.

"Process matters," Pawar said. "The process is fundamentally flawed. It is broken," he added, calling the Cubs' behavior "disgusting."

Pawar said the lot, located in a "heavily residential community," has an "incredible impact on residents" and "a deleterious impact on property values."

Pawar pointed to how last year's compromise specified the Cubs could have multiple remote lots, arguing it "does not have to be concentrated in one lot."

Rice, however, said that would only create more congestion, with drivers going to one lot and potentially being sent to another if that lot were full.

"It creates confusion. It creates congestion. All of which we're trying to alleviate," added Cub spokesman Julian Green.

Lakeview and North Center residents spoke in favor and opposed to the lot.

"You don't jump at the first option," said Todd Cywinski, who lives nearby on West Byron Street, in opposition. His wife, Meredith, complained about exhaust from idling shuttle buses.

"It's not a traffic issue. It's a safety issue," said Paul Rosenfeld, calling Revere Park next to the lot and the surrounding neighborhood a "kid haven."

"There is a willingness to work," said team attorney David Reifman, saying the Cubs would agree to "reasonable conditions."

When Toia suggested the Cubs load the lot from the west, near the Basic Wire building and away from neighboring Revere Park on the other side, Reifman pointed out the team had agreed to the opposite in order to allow Basic Wire to continue operations during a game. He said they could not promise to make that change.

Zoning Board Chairman Jonathan Swain offered the team a continuance, but the team submitted the proposal as is, with the board to vote on it at the end of the day.

Pawar said he wouldn't speculate on how he thought the vote might go.

Green defended the generally responsible behavior of the team's fans, saying, "This is not just a bunch of drunk college kids." He added the team was determined to reach an agreement with residents and "be a good neighbor in the community."

The lot can handle 1,000 cars, but Rice said the largest turnout this year was 538 for a game with the Milwaukee Brewers, whose fans typically drive down from Wisconsin.

At one point, board members asked the Cubs about potential revelry and car honking after games.

"That hasn't been seen yet," Rice responded.

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