ANDERSONVILLE — Ald. Matt Martin has denied a neighborhood group’s request to rezone part of Andersonville, saying the move to bar multi-family development would not necessarily aid historic preservation and could hurt the area’s affordability.
Martin (47th) had been weighing a rezoning request brought by neighbors who sought to restrict residential development in their area to only single-family homes or two-flats. The rezoning was meant to stop a wave of development that has altered the neighborhood’s makeup and stock of historic Chicago architecture, the neighbors said.
While Martin said he shares neighbors’ concerns about teardowns, rezoning a 16-block stretch of Andersonville to allow for only detached homes would not prevent future demolition and could lead to a further reduction of affordable housing in the area, the alderman said in a letter to constituents.
Martin’s decision aligns with a recommendation from the city’s Department of Planning and Development, which said the rezoning would cause too many existing buildings to become “non-conforming.” About 29 percent of existing housing stock in the stretch of Andersonville south of Foster Avenue would be too big under the proposed zoning designation, according to the department.
Because of this, the zoning change could have been struck down anyway due to being “arbitrary, violative of legally protected property rights, and/or untethered from a community master plan,” Martin wrote in a letter to constituents.
“While a rezone may not be an appropriate tool to prevent teardowns and preserve our affordable housing stock, our office will continue to explore aggressively other tools to preserve and expand affordable housing…” Martin said in the letter.
Martin’s decision has been blasted by the neighbors who proposed the rezoning. The decision goes against a campaign promise Martin made to the neighborhood group that he would support the rezoning request, said Dan Nelson, a member of the South of Foster Zoning Committee that pushed for the change.
“It’s disappointing for an alderman we thought was progressive,” Nelson said. “It makes no sense to anger a community this much.”
Martin’s office denied that he made a promise to support the rezoning proposal, saying instead that he agreed to hear out the idea through the ward’s community zoning process.
“Alderman Martin committed to having the zoning application brought through our community process as soon as possible,” Laura Reimers, Martin’s chief of staff, said in a statement. “Based on the feedback given by neighbors, the Department of Planning & Development, and the Department of Housing, Alderman Martin decided a rezone would not be an appropriate tool to preserve affordability, which was the primary concern that the applicants raised to Alderman Martin and throughout this process.”
Neighbors living south of Foster Avenue organized two years ago to propose the single-family rezoning request. The neighbors formed the South of Foster Zoning Committee after residents north of Foster successfully lobbied Ald. Harry Osterman (48th) to rezone the area to allow only for single-family home development.
The group sought to halt the razing of classic Chicago-style homes and two flats, which were being demolished to make way for higher-density condo developments. At least 10 single-family homes or two-flats have been demolished for new development in the last few years, according to the zoning committee.
The committee brought its request to rezone the area south of Foster Avenue, north of Argyle Street, west of Broadway and east of Clark Street to outgoing Ald. Ameya Pawar. The alderman decided to leave the decision to his successor.
The request was the subject of three community meetings held by Martin’s office, where the debate of historic preservation, density and affordable housing often turned contentious.
Some neighbors said the rezoning would keep the area’s makeup of historic homes in tact while restricting dense developments to areas where they are more suited, such as along busy streets or nearby major public transportation lines. Others said restricting the area to only single-family and two-flat development would make it more unaffordable, negatively impact neighborhood density and hurt the area’s diversity.
Martin said a new city study shows that, since 1970, restrictive zoning in gentrifying neighborhoods has actually accelerated the decline in affordable housing.
Instead of agreeing to the rezoning, Martin said there are other issues he will champion that could help preserve housing stock while aiding density and affordability. Those include legalizing accessory dwelling units in basements or coach houses, helping homeowners seek protections for their historically significant homes and increasing demolition fees to further disincentive teardowns.
The neighborhood group, meanwhile, said they’ll continue to push for the rezoning request.
“We’ll continue to educate on this,” Nelson said. “We’ll work to get him to change his mind.”
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