What’s The Rush On Uptown Re-Zoning? (Updated 2/17/09)


At tonight’s City Council meeting (City Hall, 7:30 p.m.) the Council will consider a request by Ald. Robert Ryan (5th Ward) to re-zone three properties in Uptown – at the northwest corner of Meacham Avenue and Northwest Hwy., across from the former Napleton Cadillac dealership – from their current B-1 Retail/Office status to R-3/R-4 two-family/multi-family residential. 

Ryan is ostensibly basing his request on the City’s 2002 “Uptown Plan,” which designated that area for “transitional residential” if it gets redeveloped from its existing retail/commercial status; and upon last summer’s heated objection from neighbors to a preliminary plan by CenTrust Bank to build a bank on that site, which CenTrust promptly withdrew.  

As we’ve said many times before, we like NIMBYs and think they play an essential role in drawing attention to matters that might otherwise fly under the community’s collective radar.  But while the NIMBYs’ interests should be given full and fair consideration, decisions ultimately need to be made on the basis of what is best for the community as a whole – so when the community’s overall interest significantly outweighs the NIMBYs’ parochial interests, the community’s interest should prevail.

At this point we don’t have strong feelings one way or the other about whether the best use of that site is as the currently-zoned retail/commercial, or as residential.  But we wonder why Ryan is making this move now, after having sat on his hands since last summer even though that site has been in its current fallow condition (an empty parking lot) since Napleton closed its Cadillac dealership across the street and moved it over to Greenwood and Busse, before ultimately shutting down for good last Spring?

After all, Mayor Howard “Let’s Make A Deal” Frimark and his Alderpuppets keep talking retail, retail and more retail for the Uptown area.  Here’s a site on the western edge of the Target Area II redevelopment, catty-corner from Trader Joe’s and across from the well-trafficked Hinkley Park.  While the neighbors objected to a bank there, that doesn’t necessarily mean that every possible retail/commercial use for that site should preemptively be taken off the table by re-zoning it now – before any developer even has stepped forward with a concrete residential plan.

But foreclosing retail/commercial development from that site is what is likely to happen if Ryan’s request is granted, because any retail/commercial developer is not going to like his chances for getting approval of a project that effectively will require a do-over of Ryan’s re-zoning.

That’s why Ryan’s proposal – especially coming less than two months before the hotly-contested mayoral race – has an unmistakably political odor to it.  For that reason alone we think the site should be left with its current zoning designation, thereby remaining hospitable to retail and commercial developers, at least until after the April 7 election.

If any identifiable residential developers wish to come forward with a proposal for that site, however, they can do so; and the City can consider the re-zoning at that point, based on the qualifications of an identified developer and the objective merit of the residential project being proposed, instead of on the mere abstraction of “transitional residential” presented by the Uptown Plan.

But that assumes there already isn’t a “connected” developer lying in the weeds waiting for this re-zoning to become a done deal before stepping forward with some residential plan, or a motivated and/or “connected” property owner (Napleton?) trying to get its money out of that site any way it can. 

Update (2/17/09)
We understand that last night the City Council, on motion by Ryan and seconded by Ald. Schmidt, voted to send the matter to the Planning & Zoning Commission for its consideration and recommendation.  Ald. DiPietro took pains to assure the audience that the Council was not recommending the zoning change, although Ald. Bach indicated that the Council would likely follow whatever recommendation P&Z comes up with.

On being asked by Schmidt whether the city has been approached by anyone with a development plan for the site, Acting Director of Community Preservation & Development Carrie Davis stated not since CenTrust Bank.  Interestingly, an attorney for Napleton told the Council that his client is opposed to the zoning change because it will curtail the profit potential for sale of the property.

3 comments so far

I agree that there is no reason to do anything with the Napleton zoning until some developer steps up with a plan. And I agree that it sounds like Ryan knows something he’s not telling.

What happened at last night’s meeting?

does publicwatchdog have any info on the number of PRPD offciers and former officers being subpoened by the cook county grand jury, and what is the focus of that investigation?

No, but we suggest you raise that question with the mayor, the aldermen, the city manager, the police department, or via a FOIA request.  But whether any of those sources can and will provide the information you seek is problematic, because grand jury proceedings are intended to be secret.

We would hazard a guess, however, that “the focus of that investigation” is NOT on the square footage, the layout, the condition, or the amenities of the current police station.

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