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Alderman Fights Rahm Plan To Build On Potential North Branch Parkland

By Ted Cox | July 3, 2017 5:42am | Updated on July 5, 2017 11:32am
 Sheffield Neighborhood Association Vice President Ted Wrobleski talks with consultants at a public meeting earlier this year on the North Branch Industrial Corridor.
Sheffield Neighborhood Association Vice President Ted Wrobleski talks with consultants at a public meeting earlier this year on the North Branch Industrial Corridor.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

LINCOLN PARK — Lincoln Park's alderman and a prominent neighborhood group are rallying support for a major new park at upcoming public meetings on the North Branch Industrial Corridor.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd), whose calls for a major new park wound up being all but ignored in the North Branch Framework adopted by the Plan Commission last month, sent out an email to constituents this week rallying interest in upcoming public meetings on proposed zoning changes that follow through on that framework.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel submitted a proposed ordinance to the City Council this week calling for zoning changes to allow mixed-use residential buildings just north and south of Goose Island, areas previously banned from residential zoning as Planned Manufacturing Districts.

 Aldermen Brian Hopkins and Michele Smith have both fought for parkland along the North Branch Industrial Corridor, but disagree about how much land is sufficient.
Aldermen Brian Hopkins and Michele Smith have both fought for parkland along the North Branch Industrial Corridor, but disagree about how much land is sufficient.
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DNAinfo/Ted Cox

Smith went on the attack against that ordinance in her email, saying, "Community concerns for open space are only partially addressed in the ordinance."

She cited a passage in the ordinance calling for "fields for team sports and other recreational needs of not less than 10 acres in total, distributed among various development sites. ... These fields would be located within portions of sites that can accommodate larger open spaces, and would be programmed together to accommodate both area residents, as well as new corridor residents."

Ald. Brian Hopkins (2nd), who joined the mayor in co-sponsoring the proposed zoning ordinance, boasted of how he got the city to make concessions guaranteeing that 10 acres of parkland.

But Smith called that insufficient, given the 760 acres of land in the North Branch Industrial Corridor, and the seemingly inevitable influx of thousands of new residents in the high-rises to come in the area. She's maintained that a single major new park of about 15 acres is essential.

"There is no standard for contiguous open space," she said. "Ultimately, this plan could well lead to a patchwork of spaces that will not fill the community's needs."

Smith rallied residents to attend hastily scheduled public meetings on the zoning changes set for July 11, saying, "I hope that you will attend to express your opinions on this ordinance and the urgent need for recreational open space."

The 43rd Ward meeting is at 5 p.m. at the Adams Playlot, 1919 N. Seminary Ave., and the 2nd Ward meeting at 5 p.m. at the Fleet Management lot at 1685 N. Throop St.

The Department of Planning and Development announced Friday other meetings would be held simultaneously at St. John Cantius Church, 825 N. Carpenter St.; Holstein Park Field House, 2200 N. Oakley Ave.; and in Room 1003A of City Hall, 121 N. LaSalle St. It promised the the same information would be available at all five meetings.

The Sheffield Neighborhood Association distributed Smith's email, and the association's Planning Chairman Ted Wrobleski said it would be weighing in.

"We will be at the meetings and will stress the need for improved transportation and recreational parkland as well as try to get an understanding as to the anticipated uses for the property, rezoning categories and development fees," Wrobleski said Friday.

He also questioned the short notice given for the meetings — as the mayor apparently is pushing for the zoning ordinance to be adopted at next month's City Council meeting— and their timing.

They're "all on the same day," Wrobleski pointed out, "and the 5 p.m. time is early for residents who are working."