Hyde Parkers Sue to Overturn McMobil Rezoning
The Lawsuit: An ad hoc group of Hyde Park residents announced that it has filed suit against the City of Chicago to overturn the recent rezoning of the McMobil site on East 53rd Street in their Chicago neighborhood. The suit, filed with the Circuit Court of Cook County, alleges that the city acted in an “arbitrary and capricious” manner in rezoning the site to allow for the construction of a 13-story high-rise building. Click here to view the press release.
Background: Mesa Development, supported by the property owner the University of Chicago, proposes to build a 13-story building on the so-called McMobil lot, currently the former site of the Mobil gas station and gravel parking lot to its east on 53rd St between Kenwood and Kimbark. To do this, they requested a two-step zoning change to a “planned development,” as the original zoning as of spring 2013 would not have allowed for such a large building. This zoning change was supported by Alderman Burns, who notably did not communicate with neighbors of the project, and was passed by the City Council on June 5, 2013. The name of the new development is Vue53.
Our Position: We are a group of Hyde Park residents who believe that the size of the development is grossly out of scale with the current streetscape on this portion of 53rd Street. Most of us are in favor of a new building on the McMobil lot and support many of the goals of the development, but want a structure more in scale with existing uses. We believe that the University has attempted to paint opposition to Vue53 as anti-development and anti-change. This is false. The University and the developer have not attempted to meet with people in the community who oppose the scale of the project because they want to make it as large as possible. If Vue53 is built at its proposed scale it will become easier to get approval for other massive buildings on 53rd St., for example at the SE and NE corners of 53rd and Dorchester.
The Law: While the custom in Chicago is that an alderman may make unilateral changes in zoning such as was done here, Illinois law provides a basis for challenging “arbitrary and capricious” changes under the LaSalle factors, so named for a precedent-setting case. The first factor is the existing uses and zoning of nearby properties; also considered is the benefit to the community at large weighed against the hardship to individual owners (though in our case it is the detriment to the community weighed against the benefit to the developer).