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December 1, 2015

Kenwood residents argue against commercial development

Residents of the North Kenwood neighborhood have created an organization to protest a new commercial development in a mostly residential area of their neighborhood. They met for the first time on November 12 to discuss a plan of action.

Kenwood resident Douglas Jackson and his neighbors formed the organization, Hold Alderman Accountable and Responsible Coalition (HAARC), after 4th Ward Alderman Will Burns allowed spot-zoning, the rezoning of a specific piece of land of a different type from its neighboring property. The Quad City Development Corporation, a commercial organization that provides technical and managerial assistance to small businesses, was permitted to purchase office space in an abandoned residential building at 4200 South Berkeley Avenue. The Corporation also announced plans to rent part of the building to The Cara Program, an organization that fights homelessness. These changes would convert land originally zoned for residential use into a commercial property.

“It was kind of a careless move on the alderman’s part,” Jackson said of the re-zoning. “He was trying to pull a zone change over on us for the property that’s connected to my alley, so we got together and formed an organization.” He explained that homeowners in the area are particularly worried about the potential increase in traffic due to the new office, as several have young children.

At the November 12 meeting, which was held in Kennicott Park on Lake Park Avenue, HAARC members explained to Burns that they wished he had consulted with the community before allowing the zone change. Legally, community members can question the zone change 30 days before the zone hearing and since the meeting, the zone change has been pulled by Burns. Before the building of the office proceeds, Burns will meet again with the community to discuss the use of the property.

Jackson clarified that the neighborhood’s opposition to the development was unrelated to the organizations in question. “A meeting like this could just as well have been a fundraiser for those organizations,” he said. “But the property in question is surrounded by half-million dollar homes and in no other neighborhood would you go right in and say we’re going to bring offices and homeless people into the community.”

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