The City Council's zoning committee likes the Wolf Point development so much, they approved it twice!

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Hey, why not approve it again?
  • © Wolf Point Owners LLC
  • Hey, why not approve it again?
On Tuesday, the City Council's zoning committee unanimously recommended approval of the zoning change needed to begin construction on the massive Wolf Point project.

No big surprise there. Mayor Emanuel wanted the deal done, so everybody fell in line, as they usually do in Chicago.

Guess we're just a fall-in-line kind of town.

The only curiosity is why it keeps taking so long, as once again the approval process was delayed.

If you recall, the plan commission—an advisory board appointed by the mayor—was all set to OK the project at its meeting on November 27, 2012.

But then, on November 26—as in, the day before the meeting—residents happened to discover, while sifting through legal documents, that the developers were seeking approval to construct up to 1,800 hotel units on the site, which sits on the banks of the Chicago River near the Kinzie Street bridge.

That's 1,800 more hotel units than the developers said they wanted to build there. Somehow the developers managed to go through months of meeting with the locals—many of whom didn't want the project—without mentioning that the project would have any hotel units.

Must have slipped their minds.

The locals rose up angry. Alderman Brendan Reilly—who looked foolish for having passionately endorsed the project without apparently knowing anything about the 1,800 hotel units—asked the plan commission to take the project off its agenda.

Thus giving the developers time for another community meeting. When all was said and done, the developers agreed to build only up to 450 units. Which is exactly 450 more than they'd originally called for. So you could say they compromised or you could say they got away with bloody murder.

You make the call.

On January 24, the plan commission approved the project, sending it to the zoning committee, which approved it on Monday, February 11.

Surprisingly, no residents showed up for that February 11 meeting even though dozens of them vociferously oppose the project for all the usual reasons having to do with density and traffic.

And why didn't they show up to the zoning meeting?

"Because we didn't know the project was on the agenda," says Ellen Barry, a member of Friends of Wolf Point, which opposes the project. "I got a call from someone asking, 'Where were you?' I said, 'What do you mean, where was I?' And they say, 'The zoning committee just approved Wolf Point.'"

Barry says that she and her neighbors looked on the committee's agenda two days before the meeting and Wolf Point wasn't there. Even though City Council rules say items must be on the agenda a full 48 hours before they're voted on.

We know about this 48-hour rule because it was a big issue last July in the elected-school-board battle. That's when ten aldermen wanted the council's human relations committee to have a referendum in their wards, asking voters if they want to move from a mayor-appointed school board to an elected one.

But in that case, Alderman Joe Moore, chairman of that committee, wouldn't allow the matter to be heard because its aldermanic sponsors fell a few minutes short of meeting the 48-hour agenda-posting deadline. Thus Moore managed to piss off pretty much every school activist from Roseland to Rogers Park, while winning the everlasting appreciation of Mayor Emanuel.

Again proving that one mayor is worth more than at least 10,000 ordinary citizens.

But back to Wolf Point . . .

The city says they were late getting the item on the agenda because they had to fix a typo in one of its legal documents.

Barry and her allies filed a motion demanding that the zoning committee have another meeting on the matter on the grounds that they'd violated the sacred 48-hour rule.

The committee had no choice but to go along with Barry's request, if only to avoid looking like total hypocrites.

And so it was that on Tuesday the zoning committee approved the Wolf Point project again. The only suspense was which alderman would praise Mayor Emanuel the most.

As always, there were many contenders.

Alderman James Cappleman lauded the "expert feedback from our city departments."

Alderman Danny Solis declared that "in my tenure as being chairman of this committee, I've never seen a more comprehensive effort."

And Alderman Reilly said, "It's been a lengthy process that really worked."

Just so you know, the aldermanic suck-up competition over Wolf Point is not over. The zoning change now moves to the full council, where such heavyweight mayoral apple polishers as aldermen Ed Burke and Patrick O'Connor will get to do their thing.

They ought to sell tickets to that one.

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