Last night, in a unanimous voice vote, Roscoe Village Neighbors (RVN) agreed to oppose the rezoning of the Lorente Dress Factory, 1825 W. Newport Ave., which would have allowed the creation of an expanded daycare center. The building’s owner, John Sears, has proposed creating a two-floor daycare center that could occupy as much as 18,000 square feet and would accommodate as many as 100 children for a Mary Sears Children’s Academy.
The building’s current M1-2 zoning classification already allows for a 4,500-square-foot daycare center and could accommodate up to 50 children, according to city ordinances. Mr. Sears is seeking a new zoning classification to B2-2, which does not limit daycare sizes.
“There are two major issues: One is traffic [and] parking, the other one is future development that is out of scale,” said Tom Bader, chairman of the RVN zoning committee. “From all appearances [Mary Sears] is a great organization. Unfortunately the building is not well located for the kind of traffic that it would generate.”
Reached this morning at his office and informed of RVN’s decision, Mr. Sears seemed determined to move forward with his plans. “I’ve explained everything that we’re going to do, [at the August community meeting] so we’re not going to vary from that,” said Sears.
Last week RVJ reported that 32nd Ward Ald. Scott Waguespack has asked the City Council Zoning Committee to take up the issue at their Sept. 27 meeting. But to complicate matters, the property is set to be remapped into the 47th Ward at a yet-to-be-determined date this fall. As a result, RVN Board President Brian O’Connell says Ald. Waguespack told him he plans to let 47th Ward Ald. Ameya Pawar handle the matter.
But Aldermen Pawar and Waguespack seem to be debating who will run the table on the property’s zoning change. Waguespack’s staff says he wants to involve Pawar, but Pawar’s staff says they are staying out of it.
“Ald. Waguespack is deciding the matter as this property falls within the 32nd Ward,” Pawar’s chief of staff Charna Epstein emailed RVJ this afternoon. “Ald. Pawar does not have authority over the development and therefore has no position.”
“They haven’t said anything that formal to us on this,” said Waguespack’s chief of staff Paul Sajovec. “To the extent that if they want to be involved, we’d like them to be involved.
“The chairmen of the Zoning Committee has said the two aldermen are supposed to be managing it jointly. But none of the aldermen think that’s realistic,” Sajovec explained further. “The goal is that the two aldermen need to get on the same page.”
Although community concerns at a recent public meeting centered on increased traffic resulting from the day care center, the RVN Zoning Committee report presented last night centers on the possibility that a B2-2 reclassification would set a undesirable precedent for an area that has largely become residential, and that because the zoning change would apply to the property, not the building, a future owner could choose to demolish the current 100-year-old brick structure and build a bigger, less appealing office building by right in the future.
A draft RVN Zoning Committee report contained strong language flatly opposing the proposed rezoning. Prior to its vote, the RVN board voted to soften the report’s language an in a letter to Alds. Waguespack and Pawar to invite John Sears to propose a different zoning classification that might accommodate a larger daycare center.