Court Overturns City’s Foolish Re-Zoning


Back on July 8, 2009, we published a critique of the City Council’s July 6, 2009, vote to change the zoning of long-time commercially-zoned properties into multi-family residentially-zoned ones (“Private Property Rights And Sound Zoning Policy Hijacked By 4-3 Vote”).  One of those properties was the former Napleton Cadillac parking lot at 200 N. Meacham.

Our main objection than (as it remains today) was that such a decision favored more multi-family residential development, which increases the strain on our already overwhelmed infrastructure, over commercial development.  That kind of pre-emptive residential rezoning also effectively eliminated any possibility that those properties might attract retail or other commercial development – and the property and sales tax benefits that kind of development might bring – when there wasn’t even a residential developer seeking such a change.

The principal schemer for this foolishness was none other than Ald. Robert Ryan, who is so clueless when it comes to sound government policy and fiscal responsibility that he couldn’t find Col. Mustard in the Public Works Building with the new Vactor.  And Ryan’s co-conspirators were Alds. Jim Allegretti, Don Bach and Frank Wsol, all of whom disregarded the recommendation of the Planning & Zoning Commission that the zoning of those properties should remain unchanged at least until some developer comes forward with a plan that requires a zoning change.

As can be seen from the minutes of that July 6, 2009, meeting, an attorney for Napleton warned the Council that such a change would so adversely affect the value of his client’s property that a lawsuit was likely.  But Ryan and his merry band were not going to be intimidated, and they went ahead and voted for the change.

Well, folks, Napleton sued.  And according to this week’s Park Ridge Herald-Advocate (“Cook County Circuit Court: Judge overrules rezoning of private property in 2009,” Nov. 23), Circuit Judge Peter Flynn agreed with Napleton that the zoning change made by the City Council over a year ago was unlawful because it required a three-fifths super-majority, rather than a simple 4-3 majority, vote.

That’s pretty much a technicality, but we’re fine with it because it restores the affected properties back to commercially-zoned status – where they likely will remain unless Ryan again pushes for re-zoning; and one of the three aldermen who voted against the change flips to Ryan’s side.

We don’t think that’s likely.  But one thing we’ve observed about Ryan in his 3+ years on the Council – and during his term on the D-64 School Board back in the late 1990s – is that he’s not one to let a bad idea drop, especially if it’s his bad idea. 

Remember: for months he lobbied for the ridiculous 20 S. Fairview (a/k/a Scharringhausen) lot purchase despite the City’s shaky financial condition and the fact that such a purchase would take yet another piece of private property off the tax rolls.  And Ryan can still argue, as he previously did, that conversion of those properties from commercially-zoned to multi-family residentially-zoned is consistent with the City’s now 8 year-old Uptown Comprehensive Plan which, not so coincidentally, he helped devise.

Fortunately, Ryan’s got less than six months left on the Council, which is one more thing to be grateful for this Thanksgiving.  On the other hand, City Mgr. Jim Hock supported Ryan’s boondoggle, and he has no known departure plans.  Nor does City Attorney Everette “Buzz” Hill and/or his deputy, Kathie Henn, who appear to have gotten the law wrong on the number of votes needed for the zoning change.  We wonder just how much that gaffe cost us in legal fees for the Napleton litigation.

But the H-A reports that Hill is saying he does not believe the City will appeal Judge Flynn’s decision, which should put a halt to further legal expenses.  So add that to the list of things to be thankful for.

For PublicWatchdog, that includes all you readers.

To read or post comments, click on title of post.

5 comments so far

Why didn’t the mayor veto the re-zoning? Was it because he favored it?

We understand that, at the time, Mayor Schmidt favored the zoning change on the basis that the neighbors favored it. We believed then, as we believe now, that he was wrong on that point as a matter of zoning policy.


I know you could care less what I think, but Ryan does something that the neighbors want and he gets and entire post dedicated to him. He deservedly gets a PD beating. But here is what drives me nuts.

The Mayor had every chance to stop this mess. Ironic he is a freakin’ lawyer. He does the same thing Ryan did. He supports it becuase the neighbors wanted it. He did not look at this with a lawyer eye and see that there was a problem?? But does The Mayor get a PD beating for blowing this one?? NADA. The only reason you even mention it is in response to the question from 1:54.

So on the one hand you write an entire piece focusing on the Mayor vetoing the fascade program and what an amazing thing that is, and on th other had you write a piece on the misguided rezoning issue and never even mention that the Mayor could have, should have but did not veto it.

I wonder what this case cost the city in legal fees. It could be that his not vetoing one thing cost us more that what his veto saved us.

EDITOR’S NOTE: No, the mayor didn’tdo “the same thing Ryan did” – because the mayor didn’t initiate the zoning change, nor could he do so because he is not an alderman. That was Ryan’s baby, and that’s why we barbecued him.

And Schmidt’s failure to veto the zoning change is nowhere near as significant as his vetoing of a resolution that could have put as much as $50,000 in the pockets of a campaign contributor. If you don’t think so, feel free to find us any other local gov’t official in Illinois who has done anything like it.

hmmmmm…OK…I am sorry if I was not clear in my post. What I meant was that, as you stated, the Mayor favored the zoning change (and decided not to veto it) because the neighbors favored it. Ryan favored it and initiated it becuase the neighbors (in his ward) favored it.

With all respect, you completely miss my point. I am not interested debating who owns more of this issue (Ryan or Schmidt or anyone else). You somehow seem to think that I am trying to dump it all on Schmidt. That is not the case. I agree Ryan started it. You also seem to want to debate the relative value of one versus the other – why?? My point is simply that in as much as Schmidt made a great call on the fascade issue, he missed this one and you did not even mention it. You stated “And Schmidt’s failure to veto the zoning change is nowhere near as significant as his vetoing of a resolution that could have put as much as $50,000 in the pockets of a campaign contributor”, and I will give you that one. Apparently to you that equates to not even worth mentioning and on that point we disagree.

6:31 p.m.

I don’t know whether Schmidt was playing politics with the rezoning, but it looks like he might have been. But one way to avoid dumb decisions is for Schmidt to automatically veto everything that gets only four votes whenever the four vote majority contains Bach, Allegretti and Ryan. Those three can’t depart City Hall fast enough for my taste.

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