Mayor Lori Lightfoot pledged Wednesday to continue pushing for City Hall control of zoning rules for some polluting industries, after aldermen who criticized it as a power grab stalled the plan this week.
The council on Wednesday did not consider a proposal by Lightfoot to require city planned development review for large industrial developments, including certain industrial composting, manufacturing and waste-related businesses that residents in many cases don’t want near their homes.
The ordinance failed to get enough votes to get out of the Zoning Committee this week amid criticism from aldermen who said the mayor was trying to wrest control of zoning authority that’s better handled by them.
After Wednesday’s council meeting, the mayor said she expects to push her ordinance through despite the opposition. “First of all, it’s not a failure. We plan to absolutely move forward with it,” Lightfoot said. “I’m confident we will get it passed.”
And she called the arguments against her proposal “completely specious, and that’s lawyer-speak for nonsense.”
Lightfoot said the current law allows a development to move in without seeking approval from anyone if a new tenant takes over.
“We have to change that around so this isn’t about aldermanic prerogative or power, it is about making sure that residents are protected and that they have fair notice when somebody’s coming into their neighborhood who can potentially endanger their health through air quality issues,” she said. “We have to give residents a fighting chance and the ability to impact the kind of things going into their neighborhoods.”
Since taking office, Lightfoot has faced push back from aldermen opposed to her pledge to centralize more city zoning authority at City Hall. Lightfoot has argued the move will help cut down on corruption tied to aldermen holding the power of zoning approval, while council members contend City Hall is ill-equipped to understand ward-level zoning and development concerns.
Aldermen approved an ordinance Wednesday that would set a framework to take away tax incentives in the future from companies that don’t meet their obligations to the city. Southwest Side Ald. Mike Rodriguez, 22nd, introduced the proposal after an April demolition at a former coal power plant on the Southwest Side owned by Northbrook-based Hilco Redevelopment Partners sent a cloud of dust through nearby residential streets.
While Rodriguez said it’s not clear whether Hilco can see its incentives retroactively pulled, “the important thing is, developers are on notice that we won’t stand for this.”
Lightfoot also said she’s “firmly in support” of Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s proposed amendment to the state constitution that would impose a graduate-rate income tax, as apposed to the current mandated flat-rate system. Lightfoot said she doesn’t think it makes sense for poorer residents to pay the same as those with higher incomes.
Also on Wednesday, aldermen approved an ordinance to hold hearings on creating a temporary special service area along North Michigan Avenue, allowing additional taxes to be collected from businesses along the Magnificent Mile to pay for security in a shopping area that has seen high-profile looting incidents in recent months.
The council also made four appointments to the Northwest Home Equity Assurance Program, an agency created to try to stem white flight in the late 1980s which collects small amounts of additional property taxes annually from about 48,000 homes in the Northwest Side bungalow belt. In exchange, homeowners can sign up to get a guarantee that they will receive at least the appraised value of their houses if they sell.
Southwest Side Matt O’Shea, 19th, introduced an ordinance to halt enforcement of the residential permit parking zones that blanket many Chicago neighborhoods from noon the day before a holiday until noon the day after that holiday, which would make it easier for family members to legally park on permitted streets while visiting one another’s homes.
Ald. Raymond Lopez, 15th, introduced an order calling for a six-month moratorium on the kind of “no knock” warrant that Louisville police were executing when an officer fatally shot Breonna Taylor, an incident that has become a rallying cry for police reform advocates. Lopez’s order calls for the creation of a commission to review the need for such warrants going forward.
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