LOGAN SQUARE — Two separate Logan Square “downzoning” measures that were dropped earlier this month after prominent landlord Mark Fishman threatened to sue were resurrected on Tuesday and approved by a key city panel.
The City Council’s zoning committee on Tuesday signed off on “downzoning” 2643-51 N. Milwaukee Ave., the last set of properties in Ald. Carlos Ramirez-Rosa’s (35th) long-discussed Milwaukee Avenue rezoning plan, which aims to block dense development in the gentrifying area.
The panel also approved “downzoning” the Parson’s Chicken & Fish site at 2952 W. Armitage Ave. Ald. Daniel La Spata (1st) introduced the measure to fulfill a promise made to neighbors several years ago. By “downzoning,” the neighbors hope to prevent a large development from being built on the site if the restaurant were to ever close.
Both efforts were temporarily thwarted by Fishman, who owns the Milwaukee Avenue properties and the Parson’s site.
Fishman threatened to sue the city and the respective aldermen should the “downzoning” move forward. Because of that, La Spata and Ramirez-Rosa postponed their proposals at the last Zoning Committee hearing earlier this month.
“The reason we are not bringing this to you today is one of the previous owners within the corporation, outside of all the evidence we’ve received, has voiced his objection to which we are trying to work past and come to an amicable resolution,” La Spata previously said.
A city law department couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. But whatever concerns city leaders have about Fishman suing, both measures sailed to approval on Tuesday. Now the alderman need approval from the full City Council for the “downzoning” measures to take effect.
Ramirez-Rosa said in a written statement he’s “thankful” the city panel approved his rezoning plan despite Fishman’s attempt to block part of it.
“Passage of these items is greatly appreciated by me and by the community volunteers that have diligently worked to enact our Milwaukee Avenue land use and zoning policy over the past few years,” the alderman said.
In introducing the rezoning plan, Ramirez-Rosa has said he’s following the guidance of neighbors who have long argued that “downzoning” Milwaukee Avenue is the best and only tool available to preserve affordability and small businesses in the hot neighborhood. But the plan has also sparked opposition among neighbors and property owners, with some saying it will hurt the area’s economic growth.
Fishman is one such property owner. The landlord took his opposition to the next level when he threatened a lawsuit, opening up a new battleground in the long-standing feud between him and Ramirez-Rosa.
The two have been at odds over matters of zoning and development for years. Last summer, Fishman sued Ramirez-Rosa, alleging the alderman skipped out on his ward office rent. The alderman, however, argued Fishman manufactured a dispute to “bully and buy him.” The lawsuit is still ongoing.
Tuesday’s vote is a win for Ramirez-Rosa, but also for La Spata and the neighbors who have long pushed to “downzone” the Parson’s site.
Fishman argued in a letter issued to city leaders that “downzoning” would hurt Parson’s, which is already struggling amid the coronavirus pandemic. But a Parson’s spokeswoman told Block Club the rezoning would not impact Parson’s “in any way.”
“I’m glad we were able to fulfill a longtime commitment that had been made to the community,” La Spata said in a written statement.
Fishman couldn’t be immediately reached for comment Tuesday afternoon.
Subscribe to Block Club Chicago. Every dime we make funds reporting from Chicago’s neighborhoods.