Red alert: EVA drafts demolition delay proposal


Preservation Chicago's Erica Ruggiero briefs EVA members at Happy Village.

East Village Association minutes for Nov. 3, 2014, submitted by Catherine Garypie

HISTORIC PRESERVATION: Erica Ruggiero, Preservation Chicago advocacy director

Chicago's demolition delay ordinance relies on properties identified in the 1995 Chicago Historic Resources Survey. The survey's original purpose wasn't to support the ordinance, yet that's how the city identifies properties to preserve. Buildings are identified by color:

  • RED properties possess some architectural feature or historical association that made them potentially significant in the city, state or nation. About 300 properties are categorized as Red.
  • ORANGE properties possess some architectural feature or historical association that made them potentially significant in the community. About 9,600 properties are categorized as Orange.
  • GREEN, YELLOW-GREEN, and YELLOW properties are generally considered either too altered or lacking individual significance to be included in the survey's database.
  • BLUE properties are constructed after 1940 and were generally not included in the database.

The problem is that many non-Red properties in the survey, as well as historically significant properties that did not make it onto the survey, are not being fully evaluated and are being lost.

Significantly, the Illinois Historic Structures Survey, an inventory of places of purely architectural interest completed in the early 1970s, included many Chicago buildings not included in the Chicago survey. For example, 1,100 properties in West Town were identified by the state, but not the city. Those properties are essentially unprotected.

Preservation Chicago has been working with the East Village Association and several other groups to craft a proposal to address gaps in current law causing loss of historic structures in Chicago. This is an effort to address historic preservation issues in the entire city, not just in East Village.

Ideas presented in the proposal:

  1. Increase the demolition delay period in the ordinance from 90 days to 270 days. This allows more time to locate land swaps or financial incentives for preserving the structure.
  2. Apply the delay to all properties 50 years and older, instead of just Orange properties. All other major cities in U.S. use the 50-year standard of the National Park Service (all buildings 50 years or older are eligible for the National Register of Historic Places).
  3. Expand Chicago Department of Buildings' green permit program. The current program offers qualifying new construction projects an expedited permit process and possible reduction of permit fees. The proposal would qualify both new construction and historic preservation or rehab properties.
  4. Restructure the “Adopt-A-Landmark” program. Currently, a developer can adopt a landmark within 2,000 feet of a new development and get financial incentives. The proposal would broaden the program to all historically significant properties in a broader geographic area.
  5. Increase demolition permit fee so homeowners and developers are on an even playing field. The average cost for a demo permit is now $200. Increasing the fee to as much as $50,000 is being discussed. At $50,000 developers may allow individuals to bid on rehabbing and preserving the structure.
  6. Require an Environmental Impact Statement if a development is impacting a historic property. Minnesota is leading the way in this issue, requiring a statement from not just government entities but anyone proposing a project with an impact on historic property. The burden's on the developer to prove the property is "not historically significant".
  7. Offer tax incentives in more Chicago enterprise zones under the Illinois Enterprise Zone Program.

Benefits of these proposals: new revenue streams for city, more systematic approach to preserving existing structure, greener, opportunities for dialogue, stabilize neighborhood, more residential & commercial development. Importantly, these are NOT an unfunded mandate – rather they will assist in preserving City resources.

Next step is create proposal to take to City of Chicago Historic Preservation Division, then to aldermen to bring to the City Council.

Is this going to preserve buildings that really should be torn down? Those demolitions are generally court-ordered. The longer delay would give the city adequate time to look at the building and either work to preserve it or release it for demolition - it allows a pause. The idea is to prevent the situation where a demo permit is issued and then historic preservation efforts begin.


Ronda Locke, 2nd Ward candidate
ALDERMANIC CANDIDATES

Brian Hopkins (2nd Ward) will speak at a future meeting.

Ronda Locke (1st Ward): Ten years ago my husband and I moved to East Village and had our first child, just after I left a multiyear marketing career. President of LaSalle II Local School Council (fundraising, infrastructure, etc). Commercial Park Advisory Council (free drop-in programs, free programming), former members of EVA Board, active in Chicago Police Peer Jury program, member of five-person working group to determine what to do with the former 13th District building nad land on Wood Street.

Being a former 1st Ward staffer gave me an idea of things the office could or should be doing (one example of effective work in that office: I dropped 1st Ward office phone bill from $1,000 to $300 a month). I look at solving public safety issues a having three components: police, city and community. One example of my work on public safety issues in the 1st Ward: Complaints from residents came into ward office regarding sex workers on North Avenue at 6am. I gathered volunteers & walked North Avenue with flashlights for seven weeks. It has not been much of an issue over the past few years.

I'm open to new solutions, and tenacious. My vision:

  1. Local residents, business and organizations collaborate for growth and develop a master plan for each neighborhood.
  2. All kids go to a quality school w/an elected school board.
  3. School board elected, with parents as 3 of 7 members.
  4. Fully staffed police department.
  5. Spend ward "menu" dollars ($1.3 million) through participatory decision making.

Why is elected school board important? Chicago is the only city in Illinois with an appointed school board.

Rush hour traffic on side street is dangerous. How would you help? Bring traffic lights to intersections that need them. A master plan for the neighborhood should address this.

MEDICAL MARIJUANA

A zoning variance for a medical marijuana dispensary is proposed at 744 N. Damen. Local residents have pushed back. The business owner seeking a zoning variance appears to have experience operating parking garages. He may have other affiliations.

There will be 13 dispensaries citywide. There is already one approved for Milwaukee Avenue in Wicker Park. Step 1 is zoning approval by the city, Step 2 is an operating license issued by the state. The zoning meeting is Nov. 21; comments can be submitted in person and by mail.

A licensed day care center's across the street from 744 N. Damen, so it appears that a dispensary cannot be sited there under state law.

There's a concern about locations getting a foothold in case state marijuana law is expanded to recreational use. EVA membership should not be asked to review locations that don't qualify under state or city law. These businesses should be directed to proper commercial-industrial locations.

What kind of volume or traffic will occur at dispensaries? No one really knows. In Colorado it's big business, people are still learning the ropes. At least initially Illinois will differ from Colorado, and probably dispensaries won't be too crowded at first.

A lot of building owners on Chicago Avenue and Grand Avenue have been approached as potential dispensary locations. They are generally told that Ald. Proco Joe Moreno supports siting dispensaries in the 1st Ward. Grand Ave from Damen to Western is being downzoned. That area has a lot of vacant property because the use must be industrial.

The alderman’s office should be vetting these businesses. EVA might develop a position statement, or combine with groups in Wicker Park, Bucktown, Ukrainian Village and Chicago-Grand.

Apparently fewer than 6,500 people have applied to receive medicinal marijuana in Illinois so far.

The interior of the dispensaries have to be structured a particular way. Once a license is issued, it's hard to revoke, and the policing burden seems to fall on the community. Moreno should take a position on medicinal marijuana in the 1st Ward rather than send each applicant to the neighborhood associations.

EVA is not against medicinal marijuana; the issue is if and how the community should have a role in siting and zoning. The board will work on an article to provide general information for the membership.

TREASURER'S REPORT

$3,500 going to library from fundraising event.

WEBSITE/NEWSLETTER

Beyond the medicinal marijuana article, crime and school statistics are in the works.

CAPS

Next CAPS meeting's in 2 weeks at 1012 N. Noble.

NEW BUSINESS

Ashland Bus Rapid Transit: No response to comments yet. State Street BRT is being pushed first.

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