EDISON PARK — A controversial, 30-condominium building proposed in the heart of Edison Park appears dead after an influential panel voted it down Wednesday night.
The 41st Ward Zoning Advisory Committee voted 7-4 Wednesday against the plan to build the mixed-use condo development, all but killing the project.
The vote cemented a recommendation to Ald. Anthony Napolitano (41st) that he deny the developers' request for a zoning change, which would have allowed them to build 30 condos and 4,750 square feet of office space at 6655 N. Oliphant Ave. Napolitano had vowed to follow the committee's signal.
The proposal was a lightning rod for controversy since it went public last June, as a frenzy of neighbors warned that the building would clog the streets and pour newcomers into the tight-knit neighborhood.
"In the end, it really did come down to traffic," said Liz Dechant, a committee member who cast a "no" vote on behalf of the Oriole Park Community Club. "With all that new public parking and residential space, it really just would have been too much for a small street, so close to a park and a church."
The developer, Hubert Cioromski of Troy Realty, had tweaked his original proposal to roll back the number of residences, spread the flow of traffic and add more public parking. But between two contentious public meetings in October and November, hundreds of neighbors made it clear they wouldn't be satisfied until the plan was dead.
Addressing attendees at the end of Wednesday's meeting, Napolitano said he'd long suspected most of his constituents would pan the proposal, but he punted it to the committee anyway.
Unlike most city wards, in which the alderman alone decides whether to push zoning changes, the 41st ward convenes 11 representatives of different community groups to weigh in. The same system has been in place for more than two decades, Napolitano said.
"The first time I met with [the developers] about this, I told them, 'It ain't gonna happen,'" he told the crowd. "But every time someone stopped me to talk about this project, I told them, 'You've got to let this process take place.'"
But the alderman cautioned that as long as the 36,000 square-foot lot remains empty at the center of a neighborhood with a scorching real estate market, more proposals are inevitable.
That was why committee member Frank Icuss had voted "yes" on Cioromski's proposal, he said. Since the space is now zoned for manufacturing, all kinds of other projects can get built without the community's say so.
"Right now the presenters here are offering us a four-of-a-kind [poker hand], so do we want them to reach back and pick out five new cards?" said Icuss, who represents the Edison Park Community Council on the committee. "Something is going to be built here. And it could be a parking structure, or a car wash, or any number of things, none of them as attractive or useful as a condo building."
Cioromski, who did not attend Wednesday's meeting, could even take a second pass at the space himself, committee members said.
"It's always a possibility that he comes back with a new idea," Dechant said. "If he does, we'll listen."
The committee also voted overwhelmingly Wednesday in favor of a separate proposal, to build 299 luxury micro apartments next to the Cumberland Blue Line station, although that plan doesn't need Napolitano's sign-off.
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