By AARON GETTINGER
The Protect Our Parks conservation nonprofit and plaintiffs suing to block construction of the Obama Presidential Center in Jackson Park filed a motion in U.S. District Court today to block further OPC-related construction in the park and compel the defendants, the Chicago Park District and City, to answer to their legal complaint.
Over the past months, most recently in June, the Park District and City have successfully delayed the lawsuit on the basis that a municipal ordinance has not yet been passed that would transfer the site of the OPC from the former to the latter, which would then lease the land to the Obama Foundation. The legality of this action is the crux of Protect Our Parks’ lawsuit, and the defendants said the suit is premature without it.
No ordinance about the transfer of the parcel of Jackson Park has yet been introduced to City Council. However, construction on a new track and field in the park to replace one to be displaced by the OPC began over the weekend.
While the new track and field is not a part of the OPC campus itself, Protect Our Parks allege that the City and Park District have begun OPC-related work after saying construction would not begin before the transfer of land.
Protect Our Parks went on to say that the lawsuit is not premature regardless of when the ordinance passes because nothing the Park District and City “may attempt to accomplish in a speculative future City Council action will affect Plaintiffs’ existing causes of action.”
“The Defendants have had this lawsuit for approximately three months, without any substantive response to the suit,” read the motion. “In the interim, all the Defendants have done is delayed and sought an open-ended continuance of all litigation, presumably until after ground is broken for the Obama Center, at which point the Defendants will claim the suit is moot.”
“This Court should not countenance the Defendants’ actions,” said the plaintiffs.
The Park District released information on which trees would be removed because of the new track and field construction in early May. Also, the city council voted to endorse the OPC in Jackson Park later in May.