Residents file suit against Vue53 rezoning

By JEFFREY BISHKU-AYKUL
Assistant to the Editor

Four Hyde Park residents announced on Wednesday, Sept. 25, that they filed a lawsuit against the City of Chicago for its decision earlier this year to rezone 53rd Street’s so-called “McMobil” site.

The lawsuit was filed in late August with the Circuit Court of Cook County to “challenge the City of Chicago’s re-zoning of property located at 1330 E. 53rd Street,” where a McDonalds restaurant and Mobil gas station once stood and a 13-story mixed use apartment building, Vue53, is scheduled to begin construction next year. The site was demolished in August and is currently fenced off.

The residents will be represented by lawyer Adam Kingsley, an attorney at O’Donnell and Associates Ltd. Kingsley assisted the Woodlawn Home Owners Association last winter in the preservation of the 5700 block of South Woodlawn Avenue by helping to develop a subsection of Planned Development No. 43. The document provides a framework for University of Chicago development along the street, with protections for the street.

According to plaintiff Michael Scott, a University of Illinois at Chicago professor who lives on the 5200 block of Kenwood Avenue, the development would block his view of Nichols Park. But he says his concerns about the development are far greater.

Scott calls the project “inappropriate and illegal.” He said: “The absolutely most important thing here is the building is the wrong building for the site because it is so huge and out of scale.”

The lawsuit alleges that the Chicago City Council’s decision to rezone the property earlier this year, first to B3-5 and then Planned Development No. 1218 – allowing for Mesa Development’s $75 million project to reach a planned height of 154 feet – was “arbitrary and capricious.”

A statement Scott helped to draft on save53rdstreet.org, a website run by a group of Hyde Park residents opposed to the construction of Vue53, says that “Illinois law provides a basis for challenging ‘arbitrary and capricious’” rezoning, a reference to the LaSalle Factors. The series of eight guidelines, established by two mid-20th century Illinois court cases, provides a framework for judging the legitimacy of zoning changes.

According to Scott, two of the plaintiffs are members of Citizens for Appropriate Retail and Residential Development, a neighborhood organization supporting their cause. He emphasized, however, that the plaintiffs are filing the suit independently.

“It’s not surprising that four of us who live relatively close to it have stepped out to be plaintiffs,” Scott said. “We are doing this because we care about the character of the neighborhood and the life on the street.”

Earlier this year, proposed zoning changes to the McMobil site enjoyed the support of the University of Chicago and Ald. Will Burns (4th).

This story was first reported on by chicagorealestatedaily.com. To read the press release for the lawsuit, visit save53rdstreet.org/lawsuit.
Editor’s note: Here’s a copy of the complaint.