The Jefferson Park Free Press
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June 30, 2005
Enlightenment or Lip Service?
Alderman Levar is seeking to downzone several properties on the 5500 block of W. Edmunds Street from RT-4, which allows for condos, to RS3 that would only allow single-family homes. The Alderman claims that he does not want to see the character of the single-family block destroyed. I hope this means that Alderman Levar has been enlightened on the effects of the over-development that is changing the character of not only W. Edmunds Street, but all over Jefferson Park and the 45th Ward. Could it be the protest of over 50 Jefferson Park residents who pushed their way into the 45th Ward office around Haloween in 2004, or the angry residents he faced at a meeting concerning a proposed condo development on W. Windsor Avenue back in December ’04, or the Mayfair Civic Association meeting February of this year, where over 60 people packed a small room to express their outrage at a proposal to build 30 condos on the sight of a church on W. Lawrence Ave? Over and over the residents, when given the chance have steadfastly stated they are against this onslaught of high-density development in our ward. Alderman Levar should be enlightened, but is he enlightened or just paying lip service to keep the citizens of the 45th ward off guard?
Down-zoning the 5500 block of W. Edmunds Street is too little too late, it’s like closing the barn door after the horse has already left the barn. Four of the seven ranch homes on this block are slated for demolition, to be replaced with towering condos. That’s over half the homes on the block! As for protecting the character of the block, it’s too late! On the opposite side of W. Edmunds Street just in the last few years, most of the single-family homes and two-flats already have been replaced with condos.
Not only has the character of the block changed, much of the green space has disappeared too, as the yards and front lawns of the old homes have been replaced by concrete driveways and the condo buildings themselves. After the infamous torrential downpour of August, 2003, that turned Jefferson Park’s baseball diamonds into Lake Jefferson and flooded many basements as well as destroying two brand new garden level condos on Higgins Avenue, it’s a wonder that the destruction of so much green space that helps soak up the rain is allowed by the City. After receiving nearly 2 feet of water in his own ward office, the Alderman had to take refuge, moving to higher ground on the second floor of the old firehouse at Lipps and Ainslie Avenues, but where does that leave the rest of us?
If Alderman Levar is really concerned about protecting the character of our neighborhood then he should down-zone the entire Ward. Alderman Schulter (47th) and Alderman Tunney (44th) have down-zoned great swaths of their wards to protect them from condomania, it’s time Alderman Levar did the same. The present zoning in Jefferson Park allows for extremely high-density housing and leaves our neighborhood vulnerable to over-development, which increases traffic, makes parking more difficult and overburdens the sewer systems.
…and I was taken by surprise by the amount of dandelions, clover and chickweed that has all but taken over Wilson Park, 4630 N. Milwaukee Avenue. The oval pathway that surrounds the playing field needs a complete rebuild as the patchwork of patches, over previous patches are crumbling. The pathway parallel to the alley on the south end of the park is particularly bad and even has a pothole! Lets get some of that “bean” money ( $17 million for the Millennium Park bean sculpture known as Cloud Gate) and spend it on our local parks.
Also at Wilson Park, I noticed that the brass plaque commemorating the planting of a handsome oak tree about 25 paces north of the park house is missing. If my memory serves me correct, the tree was planted by a Girl Scout troop. If anyone has information as to what was inscribed on the plaque and who and what year the tree was planted please “e”mail us or send a letter to our P.O. Box 60631.
Members of the Mayfair Civic Association gathered at the Irish-American Heritage Center (formerly Mayfair Junior College) on June 2, 2005, where developer Bob Tubic brought his amended plan for twelve condos atop 2 retail stores at 4483 W. Lawrence Ave. The updated plans show the first floor retail shops that were on the original plan eliminated and just three floors of condos. Mr. Tubic didn’t have exact height data available but said the building would be twelve to thirteen feet shorter than the original plan and approximately 35 or 36 feet high.
Some in attendance commented that the developer did not show a good enough reason as to how this would benefit the community and merit his up-zoning request, which the project would need. In response Mr. Tubic pointed out that he was merely responding to the suggestions he received from previous meetings with the Mayfair Civic Association which most of the critics were not at.
In attendance at the meeting was 39th Ward Alderman Marge Laurino. According to Alderman Laurino, after many neighbors complained about the height and even signed a petition against a proposed condo project at 4605-07 N. Elston Avenue, it looks like that condo developer is willing to lose a floor of height as well. This project was originally a four-story proposal with retail on the first floor and the developer appears to be willing to go with three floors of condos and no retail at all, similar to the 4483 W. Lawrence project in the 45th ward but also in the Mayfair Civic Association’s boundaries.
Alderman Laurino also gave an update on the development of the old Dominick’s grocery store at Lawrence and Pulaski Avenues. The property owner, Heider Properties has agreed to give five feet of their property to make for a much wider more pedestrian friendly sidewalk. The Alderman also announced that most of the new antique style streetlights have been installed and several crosswalks on Lawrence Avenue just east of Elston have been re-striped and stamped with a red painted brick pattern that helps define the pedestrian’s right of way.
The Next City Council Zoning Committee Meeting is scheduled for July 14th 2005, 10:00am in the Council Chambers on the 2nd floor of City Hall. The online Zoning Committee Agenda was not available at press time. Please visit the web-site below and check for items in your ward which will be listed numerically by ward number. Deferred items will appear at the end of the regular agenda also in numerical order.
VIEW WHEN THE ZONING COMMITTEE WILL MEET: http://www.chicityclerk.com/citycouncil/calendar.html
(You still must call the Zoning Committee chair Ald. Banks’ office at (312) 744-6857 to find out what is on the agenda until a week before the meeting when it is available online)
VIEW THE NEW ZONING ORDINANCE, GO TO: http://www.cityofchicago.org/zoning
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