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43rd Ward Candidate Proposes Community Board For 'Fractured' Zoning Process

By Paul Biasco | January 12, 2015 5:20am
 Caroline Vickrey says the current zoning process is flawed in the 43rd Ward.
Caroline Vickrey says the current zoning process is flawed in the 43rd Ward.
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LINCOLN PARK — A candidate for alderman in the 43rd Ward is calling for the creation of a community zoning board that she said would better involve the ward in development decisions.

Caroline Vickrey said she hopes to bring back the concept of a zoning board like the one former 43rd Ward Ald. Martin Oberman established in the mid 1970s.

Vickrey pointed to the plan to redevelop the former Children's Memorial Hospital site as an example of what she called a faulty process.

"I really just don't think it was transparent," she said. "It was such a high-stakes process."

Vickrey's plan is to build a board consisting of representatives from eight neighborhood organizations in the ward.

The members would be elected by the organizations: Old Town Triangle, Ranch Triangle, Sheffield Neighbors, Lincoln Central, Mid-North, Wrightwood Neighbors, Gold Coast and Park West.

Vickrey said the concept would be similar to former 44th Ward alderman Dick Simpson's, which he introduced in 1971.

The board would also include area residents with expertise in real estate, architecture and zoning law.

The board would likely meet quarterly to discuss "major developments" that require approval of the City Council and Zoning Board of Appeals and act as an advisory panel before the alderman would make a final decision.

Currently, Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) meets with neighborhood groups individually to discuss developments and hosts public meeting to discuss planned developments.

Developers are required to complete a comprehensive checklist that includes detailed descriptions of the proposal, owners, zoning and written confirmation from the community association that serves the property on whether the association approves, objects or takes no position on the project.

Smith also meets with individual businesses and those who would be affected by an development while brokering deals with builders.

"The most critical thing for us is to understand what the views of the community are," Smith said. "Not everyone is a member of their community group, so we cast a wider net."

Smith also utilizes her emailed newsletter to disseminate information about developments to its 12,500 subscribers.

Still, Vickrey said the process relies on behind-the-scenes discussions and she thinks the thoughts and concerns of all neighborhood groups should be brought to the same table.

"It's really just been an ad hoc process that has taken place in the last two major projects," Vickrey said, referring to the Children's Memorial redevelopment and Lincoln Elementary annex. "It just caused stagnation and delay. There's this big gap of time and no one really knows what's happening."

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