By Neal McKnight
There has been a great deal of talk today about EVA's involvement in a request to upzone a Chicago Avenue property from B to C zoning to accommodate a small brewery with wholesale sales and an accompanying large bar.
Forbidden Root presented a proposal to EVA representatives knowing full well that their proposal was contrary to the City of Chicago zoning, contrary to what both Alderman Moreno, EVA and others had together agreed were appropriate uses for this area.
Nevertheless, EVA discussed with a representative of Forbidden Root the proposal and requested that they alter their plans so that they need not request a zoning change from B to C zoning. First, EVA suggested that they open an establishment that served their own beer as being incidental to food service. Second, we asked that they not use the location as their wholesale beer sales point. Notably, these uses are not described in the flyer that is being distributed.
We have heard no compromise from Forbidden Root but we are still communicating.
These proposed uses can have negative impacts on surrounding residents. The proposed zoning changes constitute spot zoning which is contrary to the existing zoning. Inconsistent adjoining uses ultimately causes problems for the business and impacted neighbors. Preventing these conflicts is the very purpose of zoning.
Requests for zoning changes are a good reason to be concerned about a proposal because it suggests that the proposed use is inconsistent with the neighborhood as decided by the city. EVA has a history of working with developers and aldermen to encourage development in the neighborhood that will be compatible with the existing uses and to allow the new business to succeed.
As for other development projects, EVA has routinely negotiated with developers and businesses to reach acceptable compromises regarding scope and use. The point being the first proposal is not always the best proposal.
As an example, before Roots/West Town Bakery opened, EVA had earlier rejected a proposal to up zone the Roots/West Town Bakery sites to C zoning to allow for a dry cleaning plant. But for that decision there wouldn't be a Roots or a West Town.
EVA also negotiated with Roots' to buffer the operations from the residences on Winchester and other East Village streets. The owners of Roots and EVA, with the assistance of Alderman Moreno, hashed out a compromise that benefitted both the neighborhood and Roots.
To name a few other negotiations, the recent development on Haddon; the Miller Lumber site, 1601 W. Division/Pizza Hut (which served as the template for the city of Chicago's transit oriented development) and beer and wine sales at the Garden Gourmet. EVA also unanimously approved the development of Brooklyn Bowl.
For more than 30 years residents of the East Village have participated in the East Village Association to advocate for a better community. Our efforts continue to this day. It takes decades to build a strong and attractive community. It only takes a few hasty decisions to undo that hard work.
Forbidden Root is sponsoring a community meeting on its plan. It's scheduled for 6pm Jan. 23 at its property, 1746 W. Chicago Ave.