The Chicago City Council housing committee today forwarded Ald. Eugene Schulter's substitute ordinance for acquiring property in the the 4800 block of Western in Lincoln Square to the city council for approval.
If approved, substitute ordinance would allow the city to acquire property on that block only if owners voluntarily agree to sell. The previous ordinance would have allowed the city to use its eminent domain power to take the property.
Here's what Schulter (47th) told Sun-Times City Hall reporter Fran Spielman following today's housing committee meeting ...
ALD. EUGENE SCHULTER (47TH) ON WHAT HAPPENED AT TODAY’S MEETING OF THE CITY COUNCIL’S COMMITTEE ON HOUSING AND REAL ESTATE
“Today, we’ve changed it from an involuntary acquisition to a voluntary acquisition—all the properties except one where the owner has not objected because he’s not come to any of our…community meetings. That’s a corner building. All the other buildings will be voluntary acquisitions, which means that if they don’t want to sell, then that’s the end of that.”
WHY DID YOU MAKE THIS CHANGE—BECAUSE OF ALL THE CONTROVERSY?
"No. It was always our position to do this voluntarily because the city doesn’t have the money to do anything but do it voluntarily. What we wanted to do—and [why] I asked the chairman on Nov. 13 not to move forward on this—was so we could hear more from the community. What we’re doing today is just clarifying the language in the ordinance. It really reinforces our whole approach from the very beginning. Now, it’s absolutely certain that it’s a voluntary acquisition.”
Chicago Soccer owner Imre Hidvegi, who helped organize the Save Lincoln Square neighborhood group that helped change the legislation said;
"I'm happy that we created a community committee and that we were heard," he said. "What was of the utmost importance is (Schulter) responded to what the community really wanted."
DO YOU THINK THAT WILL EASE THE FEARS OF PEOPLE? “I think so…..The easiest thing for me would be to do nothing. What I am concerned about –what the overall community is concerned about—is to have another North Ave. and Clybourn, where you have incremental growth and, all the sudden at the end of the day, you have so much going on that you have horrendous density issues, traffic problems and parking problems. Rather than go through that and be blamed not doing anything, we’re into strategic planning in our ward. That’s what this is all about.”
BUT THE FEARS OF BIG BOX INVASIONS—YOU THINK THAT WILL GO AWAY NOW?
That’s what I don’t want is big-box. What we want is to reinforce the entrepreneurialship of the area. Does that mean that we’re against everything? Absolutely not. What we want to do is manage our growth for an area that’s becoming really tight dealing with density, parking problems and traffic problems.”
“But, what we want to do is make sure the city is on the same playing field as the private development community so the community can have more input and manage the growth of the area for its future. That’s what this is all about.”
“Four years ago, I was approached by developers who wanted to come in and put in some big stores. That would have been really troublesome. As a result of that, I asked the city to hire planners to help the community. We’ve been working on this for like 3.5 years, having community meetings about what should happen in the greater area. Some of the issues that came up were parking issues, density problems, continued growth and entrepreneurialship, independently-owned stores, traffic control for the area. Those are some of the underlying things that came out of our community process and our strategic plan. This gets us to the next level so we can start working on a request for proposal for the area.
"Be mindful though that, if property owners—and this is like five-eighths of the block—if they say `no’ to this, then it doesn’t move forward.”