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Hairston Flexes Muscles On 71st Street: No New Businesses Without Approval

By Sam Cholke | May 2, 2017 6:00am
 Ald. Leslie Hairston wants to change the zoning on 71st Street to residential in an apparent effort to control what businesses open on the street.
Ald. Leslie Hairston wants to change the zoning on 71st Street to residential in an apparent effort to control what businesses open on the street.
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Eric Allix Rogers

SOUTH SHORE — Ald. Leslie Hairston (5th) is planning to rezone 71st Street from Stony Island Avenue to Yates Boulevard to single-family residential from commercial.

The move, now under consideration by the City Council, would mean no new business could move onto the major commercial strip in South Shore without getting a zoning change.

Hairston did not respond to repeated calls for comment on Monday, but the intention of the change does not appear to be a shift toward favoring housing over businesses.

Val Free, executive director of the Planning Coalition, said questions about the zoning change came up with residents over the weekend at a neighborhood summit.

She said Hairston’s chief of staff Kim Webb explained at the event that the intention was to give the alderman control over what businesses could open on 71st Street.

“They don’t want to see another wig shop because those types of businesses attract loitering and other things that go along with that,” Free said of her understanding of Webb’s explanation.

Map created by Chicago Cityscape

The proposal appears to be coming without consultation with the existing businesses on 71st Street.

“I have not heard of anyone requesting this,” said Tonya Trice, executive director of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce.

She said the chamber has not decided whether to support Hairston’s plan, but also has not spoken to Hairston since the plan was introduced on March 29.

The change would not affect existing businesses on the street, but would considerably raise the bar for new businesses that want to open on the street. The city charges $1,025 fee for a zoning change, and that doesn’t count lawyer fees and other costs. It also slows the process down, with zoning changes typically taking three months.

Zoning changes are also rarely approved by the city without support from the alderman.

Reclaiming South Shore For All has come out against the plan as other groups withhold judgment until hearing from Hairston.

“This will virtually guarantee that no new businesses at all will open in the affected area — least of all small, local, entrepreneurial businesses that cannot afford to jump through these new legal hurdles,” the group said in a statement Monday.

The zoning change is being considered by the Council’s Committee on Zoning, Landmarks and Building Standards, which meets next on May 9.