EVA Forbidden Root discussion & vote

East Village Association minutes for May 5, 2014
Submitted by Catherine Garypie


WELLSAPOLOOZA (Susan Nusbaum, Wells HS)

The Wells ball field will provide space for baseball, softball, women’s softball, little league and soccer. $1.6 million is the cost. The school's working with the Cal Ripken, Sr. Foundation on funding, and with Ald. Proco Moreno and Rep. Cynthia Soto.

A fundraiser is 4:30-8:30pm Friday, May 16, with 6 bands and a taste of Wells. Admission is free, but you pay for food & there will be a silent auction. Principal Rituparna Raichoudhuri and former principal Ernesto Matias will be at donation table.

FORBIDDEN ROOT PRESENTATION (Rolando Acosta)

Forbidden Root would be the first Botanical Brewery in the world. The location on Chicago Avenue will hold the headquarters, R&D, some production, taproom, some package sales and offices. Production would be limited to 9,000 barrels a year. Main production and mass bottling will be offsite. The taproom will be in front. Forbidden Root will not serve other alcoholic products (no Bud, Miller, etc). Several coolers also will limit sales to Forbidden Root products. Forbidden Root does not intend to be a liquor store or bar.

Forbidden Root is a “benefit corporation” organized in Maryland. Benefit corporations are basically required to be a good neighbor, be good to the environment. Forbidden Root will donate all profit from non-consumables (shirts, hats, etc) to nonprofits in the area (currently Green City Market; others may be added).

Forbidden Root will apply for C1 zoning. This C1 zoning will permit certain uses. Tavern moratorium will need to be lifted; Forbidden Root couldn’t get ordinance changed. Zoning designation B1 (Ashland to Wood) does not allow taverns. Therefore, the tavern moratorium won’t mean more taverns – we’ll have the only C-zoning.

FR has worked with EVA on a Plan of Operation. The plan does not allow certain activity and contains certain requirements.

There will be limited hours, until midnight; limited amount of seating, and limited ability to get a Public Place of Amusement license; it won’t charge at door. It's not a banquet hall. Forbidden Root will abide by Chicago noise ordinance: nothing higher than conversational level 100 feet from the property. Signs will not be illuminated. Hours for trash pickup are limited. A clear path is defined for loading and unloading from Chicago Avenue, north on Hermitage, west in alley, south on Wood to Chicago.

The perimeter of the building will be monitored for safety. Forbidden Root will keep garbage containers closed and pick up sidewalk trash, install security cameras, use pet-friendly salt for the sidewalk and follow environmental guidelines (“We've agreed to abide by those." The building would have no patio liquor license or late-night liquor license, and a manager phone number and email will be available for the community to call if any problem arises).

Introductions: owner Robert Finkel, brewer Robert (BJ) Pichman, marketer Jacquie Armanetti

QUESTIONS

What happens if you get zoning change and Forbidden Root decides not to go into the space? FR: Zoning stays with the property, but any new owner would have to have basically that same operation described in the Type 1; the zoning is very specific. Also, the alderman can downzone and bring it back to B-zoning.

Odor concerns: Will Forbidden Root do anything to mitigate smell? FR: No. We think the facility is unlikely to emit anything. There are provisions for nuisance in the Municipal Code.

What’s recourse if there is a problem (like the Blommer chocolate odor problem)? FR: There are several brewpubs in the neighborhood – do you smell them? There will not be odors as powerful as, for example, a Burger King.

What is the community’s recourse if there is an odor problem & a scrubber is needed? FR: Call us. Note that we are planning on aggressive disposal of hops and spent grains. Other breweries in the city have no odor control equipment and no odor problem.

EVA: We couldn't work out a mediation clause. A committee member committee was in contact with the neighborhood association for the area where Half Acre is located. An odor in sewer grates near Half Acre was corrected. A microbrewery owner offered the opinion that while 9,000 barrels a year is significant production, the only likely odor issue will be disposal of spent grains or hops. That's covered in the Plan of Operation. Forbidden Root is required to comply only with World Bank environmental guidelines “to the extent practicable.”

Let’s discuss why moratoria were put in: Are these the kind of uses that you want in your backyard? EVA: The moritora are a good tool to address that. Division Street grew under the same circumstances. Lifting the moritoria gives a lot away. Some members are saying, you’re crazy to lift it, others the opposite. New members: We’re glad you're interested in neighborhood issues and we hope that you will be involved with issues besides Forbidden Root. New members may not realize that we could've decided this at the board level. But the board thought it should come to the membership for a vote.

Is moratorium gone if it’s lifted? EVA: Yes, for 2 blocks, for 1 year. (EVA)

If it's just a tavern lift, will the two mini-marts on either side of Forbidden Root be able to get a package liquor license? EVA: No, but any other property lifted from the tavern moratorium could get a tavern license if it gets C-zoning. Forbidden Root could have sought an “incidental to food service” license without a Plan of Operation attached to that license. Fatpour Tap Works and the Fifty/50 are all licensed as “incidental” to food service.

How easy would it be to upzone and get a tavern license in the tavern moratorium lift area? EVA: Its really up to the alderman. EVA only has an advisory role in the process.

So under the Plan of Operation, Forbidden Root will not ask for a package license until basically March 2015. Will you commit to not apply after then? If they apply for a package license, they’ll have same Plan of Operation attached (EVA).

Alderman Moreno’s written agreement not to lift the liquor moratoria in the EV is only for one more year? Correct.

What if Forbidden wants to sell the business? EVA: The license will continue to have the Plan of Operation attached to it.

VOTE

The Plan of Operation has been circulated. Here is the issue we are voting on: “The East Village Association general membership does not oppose the lifting of the tavern moratorium on Chicago Avenue from Wood Street to Ashland Avenue and a Type 1 rezoning of 1742-1750 W. Chicago Ave.; from B1-2 to C1-1 and the issuance of a tavern license to Forbidden Root/ Robert Finkel subject to an agreed upon Plan of Operation.”

Result of vote: 24 do not oppose, 9 oppose. Additional votes were received by the secretary after ballots were counted and announced, and those additional ballots were disregarded. EVA will send a letter to Alderman Moreno shortly.

FIFIELD PRESENTATION (Steve Fifield)

Request is to upzone 1822-1850 W Chicago Ave. from B-3-2 to B-3-3, which will allow 20 additional units on the property.

Fifield: EVA board is not supporting our proposal because we are not “compelling enough.” We could build 37 units on 12 25-by-125 ft lots. Land is expensive. Builders are building large units to absorb land costs. We think there is a shortage of 1-bedrooms. We want to build 107 total units, 39% studio and 61% 2 & 3 bedrooms. Alderman Moreno has asked, What are you doing for people in neighborhood? We're building smaller units so there will be an opportunity for retired persons and widowers to stay in the neighborhood in smaller units. And some young people who cannot afford a house or expensive condo can rent in our building. West Town Chamber of Commerce is in support; they prefer one building on all 12 lots instead of 36 large units over parking.

We have a letter of intent for a day-care tenant for 8,000 square feet of the first-floor commercial space. We will have 6,000 square feet of commercial space in addition. Also, we’ll make the back of our building (facing Commercial Park) look good. The building will enhance the neighborhood.

Our concession to the community: $200,000 to Commercial Park, which is in bad shape. We believe we can control this contribution so it will only be used by Commercial Park. In addition, we'll make an “in lieu of” payment of $590,000 to the city’s Affordable Housing Fund. It’s kind of a wash for us, $790,000 vs, the cost of building additional units. We’re not making a lot on the extra units we’ll get with the upzone. We have also considered all the comments we’ve received from EVA, and we’ve adjusted our plans. You’ve helped us to build a better project.

QUESTIONS

Will they all be rental units? F: Yes.

What will the units cost to rent? F: $1,200/mo for a studio, $1,500/mo for a small 1 bed, over $2,000/mo for 2-3 bedrooms.

Can you describe the building parking? F: 6 spaces for commercial tenant employees, remaining spaces for residential tenants. Total spaces will be 50. The ratio of unit spaces will be less than 1 unit per car. We think most tenants will use public transit, Uber, car rentals or Zipcars. In downtown Chicago the ratio is 1 unit to 0.4 cars and those units rent at more than $2,000/mo.

Won't renters be like the “partiers” we moved away from on Division Street, especially if there is no parking? F: This is an older neighborhood. Average age of resident west of the East Bank Club is 34. Average age of resident in River North is 25-37.

I disagree. F: Maybe this is due to the unit mix in your building.

Please explain the difference between building in B-3-2 (“as of right”) versus in B-3-3 (with the upzone). F: both building will be rental units. With upzone we can build more units (although the bedroom count is not much different). With upzone we can build a taller building but we are planning to limit ourselves to 4 stories with parking in rear and using nice materials (no split-face block).

We can take you on a tour of our other buildings. We have well-designed units. We’ll be at or 10% above market rate for rents. With upzone there will be no gangways and it will look better on Chicago Avenue. The Floor Area Ratio is 2.2 "as of right” versus 2.29 with the up zone, not a big difference. The only reason we’re asking for zoning change is to get this mix of units. It won’t change height, parking requirements, etc.

$200,000 in impact dollars for Commercial Park seems low. Will you pay an annual impact fee instead? F: We’ll support Commercial Park, bring in bounce houses, provide cash for event food, etc. We help a lot of nonprofits. We look forward to supporting the neighborhood. We think our tenants will be from the neighborhood. The building will have an elevator and professional management.

You're talking about more smaller units, but no affordable units? F: Our rental units will be affordable for people who make $30,000-50,000 a year.

$1,200 a month is not affordable for people in that salary range. F: Affordable housing law requires that we include a lot of affordable housing, 10% of the units (this costs $250,000 per unit), or paying $100,000 in an “in lieu of” payment to the Affordable Housing Fund. If we include affordable units in the building, we cannot get a tax credit. The “in lieu of” payment of $590,000 goes to private & nonprofit affordable housing developers.

So this is build “as of right” (3 cookie-cutter units per lot x 12) or build with an upzone with a large building and a variety of units? EVA: it doesn’t have to be built either way. They could do something else. The developer's original plan is no longer on the table.

Does zoning change affect the type of commercial/business activities allowed on those 12 parcels? F: We’d only build what you agree to today (we’ll file a restrictive covenant). We’re not planning to flip this building once it's built; we’re committed.

Will you live in the building? F: We live in Chicago. We’ve built 3,000 units. We don’t live in another state or city. Check out our other developments (Lux 24 Apartments on Madison).

I’m a landlord. When I do a credit check, my rule of thumb is 1 week pay = 1 month rent. So a tenant must earn $62,000/yr to live in one of your studio units? F: That’s a tough rule. We’d rent to someone with less income./

When will this be completed? F: Steps will include Planning Commission, Zoning Commission, City Council, city permit processing. We would likely start construct early next year, and we anticipate 1.5 to 2 years to build.

Are units designed for singles or more than one person? F: There are occupancy laws.

Why are you opposed to selling this land to Commercial Park? EVA: There have been multiple plans for this property. No offer has been made by the city at any time.

Isn’t it true that Trust for Public Land efforts are hampered by your refusal to sell the land? EVA: Fifield has been consistently stating they will not sell, saying “We’re builders, not sellers.” No one has ever asked Fifield to give land to the park. No offer has been made; they’ve never been willing to sell.

Why build extra units if you won’t make more money doing that? F: It’s as if we’re buying the land for those units. It’s a better project. It’s a better mix of units.

EVA: The board's Planning Committee considered the upzone request and is recommending against the upzone. Usually for an upzone there is a compelling reason based on hardship, or major benefit to the community, but we don’t see that here. The upzone will allow a slightly larger mix compared to what they could do “as of right”. In addition, we try to keep affordable housing dollars in the community. But these “in lieu of” payments can go anywhere in the city.

F: We’ll work with Alderman Moreno to see if we can keep those dollars in the community.

EVA: We also have the precedent of a developer giving money (here $200,000) to Commercial Park in exchange for an upzone. Do we want to set that precedent?

Will Fifield have to give $200,000 to Commerical Park if they don’t get the upzone? EVA: in either scenario, a donation cannot be required. But if they get the upzone, they will voluntarily donate $200,000 to Commercial Park.

If that $200,000 goes to the city, it can’t be guaranteed to go to Commercial Park, right? F: Alderman Moreno has told us he will work to keep the $200,000 in the community. No matter what, we’ll give donations to community.

EVA member (Greg Nagel): I support this project.

VOTE

Here's the issue we are voting on: “Does the East Village Association general membership oppose the rezoning of 1822-1850 West Chicago Avenue from B3-2 to B3-3 to allow for a Planned Development proposed by the Fifield Companies with a maximum of 59 residential units as presented to East Village Association Board on April 7, 2014?"

Result of vote: 16 are in favor of the rezoning, 17 oppose the rezoning. Additional votes were received by the Secretary after ballots were counted and announced, and those additional ballots were disregarded. EVA will send a letter to Alderman Moreno shortly.

Meeting started 7:20pm, ended 8:45pm.

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