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South Chicago, East Side

Southside Recycling Sues City Again To Open In East Side — Just Days After Federal Judge Rejected Similar Suit

The planned metal scrapper's new lawsuit, like its prior suit, seeks more than $100 million in damages and a permit allowing the facility to open on the Southeast Side.

The planned location for Southside Recycling, 11600 S. Burley Ave., on Feb. 22, 2021. Four Reserve Management Group recycling facilities currently operate at the East Side site.
Colin Boyle/Block Club Chicago
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EAST SIDE — Southside Recycling has again sued the city for $100 million and the right to open in the East Side neighborhood after a federal judge dismissed a similar lawsuit last week.

The planned metal scrapper and its parent company, Reserve Management Group, are again suing the city and health commissioner Dr. Allison Arwady, claiming they broke the city’s 2019 agreement to help the company move General Iron’s operations to the Southeast Side.

RMG operated General Iron in Lincoln Park until this year. It wants to move the troubled scrapper’s essential equipment and most employees to 11600 S. Burley Ave., where four other recycling facilities already operate.

Southeast Side residents and environmental activists have organized against the company’s plans, culminating in a month-long hunger strike earlier this year.

The latest lawsuit was filed July 1, two days after the prior lawsuit was dismissed. Kristen Cabanban, a spokesperson for the city’s Law Department, declined to comment.

The city and RMG must discuss a settlement by July 21, Circuit Court Judge Michael Mullen ordered. The city must respond to the company’s claims by July 28, and the next hearing in the case is scheduled for July 30.

State and city officials controversially approved some of Southside Recycling’s needed permits over the past year, but the company awaits the green light on a city operating permit to officially open Southside Recycling.

The city’s decision on whether to issue Southside Recycling’s operating permit was due March 15, according to health department guidelines. City officials first refused to say when they would decide, then halted the review entirely at federal regulators’ request.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency pushed Mayor Lori Lightfoot to delay issuing the final permit for the company, saying Southside Recycling’s plans “raised significant civil rights concerns” for area residents.

Lightfoot postponed the permit review in May, shortly after the EPA’s request went public, and pledged to do an environmental review of the area as the agency had suggested.

RMG sued the city in federal court later that month, claiming officials violated the company’s constitutional rights. Last week, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Dow Jr. dismissed the suit.

Because the operating permit is still under review, the city hasn’t violated RMG’s rights, Dow wrote.

Land use reviews, like the city’s review of Southside Recycling’s plans, are allowed “especially” if the subject at hand has “the potential to impinge on matters of public interest, as [the company’s] operations plainly do,” Dow said.

Other issues raised by RMG should be addressed in state court, the federal judge said.

RMG spokesperson Randall Samborn said last week the company would “immediately seek a prompt ruling” in the lower court “based on the city’s broken promises and the fact that we have met every requirement imposed by the city’s own rules.”

The company “can’t speculate” on whether the company will refile in federal court if its new lawsuit is unsuccessful, Samborn said this week.

Cabanban welcomed the dismissal of the prior lawsuit, as the decision “acknowledged the appropriateness of the City’s choice to cooperate with the EPA’s request for additional analysis,” she said last week.

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