This evening, in what should have been an open, public community meeting, the alderman discussed with a few select residents a developer’s proposal to build 16 housing units across the street from the new library. The development consists of two buildings, each containing five townhouses, and one six-unit condo building. The only residents invited to attend are those who live in the immediate vicinity of the proposed development.
The buildings would replace the vacant lots on Morse and Western Avenues. The exact addresses are 6911 and 6915 North Western and 2339 West Morse. A special-use permit is required for the development.
The developer, Noah Properties LLC, is known for building luxury housing. I could find no record that the company or either of its two principals have donated to the Silversteins.
Parking is among the concerns being raised by residents in the area, who have also pointed out that the new library has not yet opened and therefore its effect on the surrounding area is not yet known. The library will have only a few parking spaces. Nor is it known how many of the residents in the new Northtown Senior Apartments will have cars, or how many visitors they will have. The impact of traffic from library patrons on residential streets and alleys is also yet to be determined.
The fact that the alderman is discussing this project at all means that it is most likely a done deal. Her lack of transparency with regard to the people’s business is well-known. So is her disregard for residents’ opinions. The community is still waiting for her to reveal the names of the members of the secret committee that helped her finalize the library design.
The alderman’s invitation to the selected residents was postmarked July 25, with the meeting set for 6 p.m. on August 6. It was followed by postcards to the same residents from the developer as required by law.
I have to wonder at the undue haste in setting the meeting as well as the fact that the larger community was excluded from a project which will change the character of one of our largest commercial streets. A few years ago, after refusing to approve zoning for the medical marijuana dispensary next to Warren Park, the alderman quietly had that parcel of land rezoned to residential. What’s going on here and why isn’t the entire community involved in zoning and development matters? There’s far too much secrecy involved in land use planning in the 50th Ward. This is a subject which needs to be addressed during the upcoming election campaign.
Many of the nearby residents would prefer to see commercial development in the area. Western Avenue has always been home to businesses that have enriched the neighborhood. It would be a shame to proceed with luxury housing in this area when the need for economic development is so much greater . The economic decline of West Ridge did not begin with Silverstein but it has worsened during her two terms as alderman because of her lack of leadership and disinterest in the neighborhood’s economic health. She has been content to herald the occasional opening of yet another discount store while neglecting to create the economic development plan she promised in 2011.
The streets east of Western hold a great many large condo and apartment buildings, most of which have inadequate parking. Residents of those buildings currently park on Morse west of Western. They could find themselves competing for parking spaces with residents of and visitors to both the senior apartments and the new townhouse-condo development.
Community residents have a wide variety of opinions about and suggestions for zoning, land use, and residential and commercial development in the 50th Ward. It’s time for the alderman to start listening to her constituents.
Silverstein needs to schedule at least one community-wide meeting to fully discuss this potential development with residents of the 50th Ward.
The 50th Ward needs a leader who will be open and transparent on community matters and involve residents in the planning of residential and commercial development. Silverstein does not want residents to know anything about the people’s business unless and until she decides to tell us.
Aldermen are not elected to rule by fiat.
Remember that when you are signing petitions for potential challengers to Silverstein.