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West Side rezoning derailed

Plans to rezone parts of the former Mayfair rail corridor were derailed Wednesday by complaints from several neighborhood residents.

While individual arguments varied, generally the neighbors said they want to avoid gentrification, have any new construction consist mostly of single-family homes affordable to existing neighborhood residents and not raise taxes.

The West Side plan recently adopted by City Council calls for building mostly townhouses and small apartment buildings on now largely vacant industrial land along the old rail bed.

The Zoning Committee of the Plan Commission’s public hearing Wednesday sought comments on zoning changes that would implement the plan.

While the neighors said they want single family homes, city real estate consultants and developers have concluded townhome and apartment units would be much more affordable.

They’ve suggested that apartments in six- or nine-flat buildings might sell for $200,000 or less, that townhomes could start at around $400,000, and that even the smallest new single family home would cost at least $600,000.

Making such a home affordable to low income residents would require a massive government subsidy that would have to be added to tax bills.

Carlis Sutton of 1821 Darrow St. said, "I’d like to see development, but why can’t it fit into current zoning? This is going to speed up gentrification. Nobody my color is going to be able to afford $400,000 units."

Tina Paden, who owns rental property at 1507 Emerson St., said, "Who’s paying for these new streets and alleys? I assume it’s the city taxpayers as normal."

Complaints also came from owners of businesses whose property would be rezoned for residential use under the plan.

While the change wouldn’t put them out of business, it would limit their ability to expand their buildings or sell them for business use if the property was vacant for over a year.

Lucille Prudden, co-owner of the Buffalo Joe’s restaurant at 2000 Green Bay Road, said, "This is the first time we’ve heard that there is a plan to take our land for future development."

"We provide jobs to people. Our building goes back to the 1900s. Now we’d be locked in and couldn’t improve or expand it."

John Cahill, owner of Cahill Plumbing at 1515 Church St., said his business has been at that location for 30 years and plans to stay. He said he saw no good reason to rezone his property from industrial to residential use.

Plan Commission Chairman James Woods said, "Saying to Cahill or Buffalo Joe’s that they can’t improve their property by changing the square footage of their building seems incomprehensible to me. I’ve got a problem with this."

The city’s consultants had argued for limiting the amount of commercially zoned property in the area, suggesting there’s not enough market demand to fill it. They also argued that commercial uses along Green Bay from Foster Street to Simpson Street conflicted with efforts to upgrade residential uses just to the west.

In an effort to get the process back on track, Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, suggested postponing the next formal Zoning Committee hearing until after a more informal workshop-style session can be held to try to resolve some of the differences.

The committee voted to postpone setting a date for its next hearing until Sept. 12 to give staff time to schedule the workshop meeting.

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