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Controversial Jefferson Park Storage Facility Vote Delayed, Alderman Says

By Alex Nitkin | April 11, 2017 5:34am | Updated on April 12, 2017 11:33am
 The projected view of the proposed warehouse from Milwaukee Avenue
The projected view of the proposed warehouse from Milwaukee Avenue
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LSC Development

CHICAGO — A beleaguered proposal to build a storage warehouse in the heart of Jefferson Park will have to wait another month before its fate is decided, according to Ald. John Arena (45th), one of the plan's chief backers.

Arena personally asked City Council zoning committee chairman Ald. Danny Solis (25th) to delay the hearing on the storage warehouse until the committee's May 9 meeting, writing in a Monday Facebook post that he "wanted to make sure neighbors have abundant time to ask any questions and voice any concerns" about the proposal before it next went before the committee.

Owen Brugh, Arena's chief of staff, added Monday that "there's frankly been a lot of misinformation around this proposal," specifically around the building's height, "and we want to have the opportunity to clear that up," he said.

While the proposed building would contain five floors, some opponents have argued that its 75-foot height means it should be considered taller than five stories.

The alderman also wants to further research ways for pedestrians to access the building, especially those coming across the five-lane Milwaukee Avenue, Brugh said.

The proposal sailed through the Chicago Plan Commission on March 16, but Ald. Ed Burke (14th) stepped in to block its passage in the zoning committee on March 27, citing questions over a legal agreement between city officials and LSC Development LLC that formed the basis for the proposal.

The alderman has invited a second developer, Full Circle Communities, to build a 100-unit mixed-income apartment complex on the other half of the property at 5150 N. Northwest Highway, which is owned by LSC Development. The apartment developers have not submitted their proposal, which they say would prioritize veterans and people with disabilities, for planning or zoning approval.

LSC Development had originally planned to renovate the existing three-story building on the site, the former FSP food processing center. But Arena changed the property's zoning in April 2016, just before work could begin, in order to "ensure that there would ... be ample time to consult the community and work with developers on a plan that would inform the changing nature of the surrounding uses," he later said.

The developer sued the city and alderman over the last-minute change, alleging Arena's "unreasonable neglect" caused the company "substantial financial damage."

The legal fight culminated in a settlement signed on Jan. 27 — one day after the five-story blueprint was made public — compelling the alderman to "agree to support and not to challenge" the new plan or risk triggering the developer's lawsuit anew. The agreement also gives the City Council until July 25 to approve the zoning change allowing the project to move forward.

But that settlement yielded a fresh lawsuit, filed Thursday, on behalf of neighbors who allege the proposal was born of an "illegal process" that resisted community input by design.

In a separate Facebook post Sunday, Arena wrote that he is "confident that the proposed storage facility is on solid legal footing and [is] disappointed that opponents have resorted to this tactic."

The proposal's delayed date with the zoning committee is not related to the lawsuit, Burgh said.