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Ordinance would change approval rules for certain industrial uses

Published on Apr. 27, 2020 by Steven Vance

Updated on Apr. 29, 2020

An ordinance was proposed would amend the Zoning Board of Appeals’s (ZBA) review criteria for any industrial use in a Planned Manufacturing District that is a “special use” and requires an air pollution permit. It would also add a community meeting requirement.

It is important to note that the site of the former Crawford Generating Station that is being demolished — the smokestack already has been demolished — is not in a Planned Manufacturing District, nor was it prior to being converted to Planned Development #1424.

However, the new location of General Iron’s metal recycling facility will be in PMD #6. See map of the 22 PMDs.

Update: Alex Nitkin interviewed Alder Cardenas and Anthony Moser, a board member for Neighbors for Environmental Justice, for The Daily Line.

The ZBA is a board appointed by the mayor, and independent of City Council, to approve “special uses” that the zoning code doesn’t allow as-of-right. These special uses include cannabis business establishments, gas stations, recycling and waste facilities, rooftop farms, and community centers. The zoning code establishes the criteria that the ZBA must use to review and approve projects.

General Iron will be moving its recycling facility from Lincoln Park (shown) to the Lake Calumet area, into a PMD.

A Planned Manufacturing District (PMD) is a zoning district intended to preserve and promote manufacturing within the City of Chicago by allowing only manufacturing, commercial, and industrial uses in perpetuity. Since the zoning district cannot change to ones that allow a higher value use (like offices or multi-family residential), the land values remain low and affordable to business categories that need a large amount of land.

The ordinance proposes the following changes to the Chicago zoning code.

  1. ZBA must notify the Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy that they’ve received an application for a special use that requires an air pollution permit.
  2. The ZBA must receive a letter of support, a letter of non-objection, or a letter of objection from the alder whose ward the project is in.
  3. There is a 60-day period before ZBA can hear or vote on the application.
  4. The applicant must hold a community meeting in the ward, with video (live or recorded), and notify nearby property owners via mail.
  5. The Committee on Environmental Protection and Energy shall hold a “subject matter hearing” on the proposed projects environmental impacts, at which the applicant must testify.
  6. The ordinance adds a new, third criteria for approval for the ZBA to consider, which is to “make specific findings on the probably effects of the proposed use on…the quality of air and water in the surrounding community and any other deleterious environment impacts”.

Ordinance would change approval rules for certain industrial uses was originally published in Chicago Cityscape on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.