HUMBOLDT PARK — Four years after Ald. Roberto Maldonado (26th) withdrew a proposal to rezone property he owned due to a "conflict of interest," the alderman has transferred the land to a trust controlled by his wife.
A proposal is now before the city to rezone the vacant industrial property — situated along the future Bloomingdale trail — so eight town homes can be built.
The city's Committee on Zoning Landmark and Building Standards was to hear the industrial-to-residential rezoning request Tuesday, but action was delayed until at least Nov. 13.
Humboldt Park residents were told of the rezoning proposal at 1754-56 N. Central Park Ave. and 1755-57 N. Monticello Ave. on Sept. 20. The vacant properties were listed under Maldonado’s name until 2013, when they were transferred to the Nancy Y. Franco Maldonado Trust.
“The settlor of the trust, Nancy Y. Franco-Maldonado, is my wife. I am a guarantor for the loan which encumbers the property,” Maldonado wrote to the executive director of the Chicago Ethics Board Oct. 7. The alderman has also disclosed his relationship in the site's zoning application.
Transferring the property to his wife is akin to "moving it from your left pocket to your right," according to estate lawyer John Zelenka.
"If he put it in his wife’s trust, he's the guarantor and he's on the mortgage then he owns it," Zelenka added.
Maldonado canceled plans to rezone the same 26th Ward properties in 2009 due to a "conflict of interest," the Chicago Reader reported at the time. He had just become the 26th Ward's alderman, and aldermen have a say in land use policy in their wards.
The properties sit directly adjacent to the upcoming Bloomingdale Trail, part of the larger "606" system that is converting forgotten railroad tracks into a linear park that will stretch through several neighborhoods.
Before he became alderman, Maldonado wanted to build a pair of four-story, 10-unit buildings at the site. But after he became alderman, Maldonado withdrew the application saying he would instead sell the properties and recuse himself from any future proceedings.
Maldonado sold the property to his wife's trust in 2013 and made a pledge to abstain from proceedings regarding the properties on the northern border of his ward.
The latest proposal calls for eight, two-story, 38-foot-high townhomes, each with a two-car garage. The properties are owned by “Nancy Y. Franco-Maldonado, not personally, but as trustee of the Nancy Y Maldonado Trust,” according to the zoning committee's agenda.
Armitage Neighbors Together member Zach Abel wonders whether the alderman’s wife is a suitable separation from the alderman’s former conflict of interest. “It’s questionable. He knows the Bloomingdale Trail is coming in,” Abel said.
Maldonado and his wife did not respond to requests for comment on the change in ownership. Daniel Lauer, the lawyer listed on the rezoning notice, also could not be reached.
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