By Lorraine Swanson, Editor
The Zoning Board of Appeals said it would be several weeks before it announces its decision on a special-use zoning variance that would allow Labor Ready Midwest Inc. to open a day labor branch office at 4830 N. Sheridan Road.
Labor Ready Midwest Inc., a division of TrueBlue Inc. based in Tacoma, Wash., provides temporary, blue-collar staffing. It wants to open a Labor Ready branch office on the border between the 46th and 48th Wards. To do so, a special use zoning variance is required.
About 100 Uptown residents from the two wards turned out to testify before the ZBA Friday morning, packing two sections of the city council chambers. Opponents claim that locating a day labor agency does not meet the requirements of the city's zoning ordinance and would affect the quality of life in the already struggling Uptown neighborhood.
Residents also contend that Labor Ready doesn't do enough due diligence in checking potential workers' backgrounds for felony convictions and sex offenses. The proposed site sits across the street from two elementary schools, a play lot, and a Chicago Boys and Girls Club.
Labor Ready requires job applicants to complete a self-administered behavioral survey that asks applicants questions about past drug use and other behavior that might pose a safety risk on job sites.
Uptown-resident Cindy Anderson and a former 46th Ward aldermanic candidate, questioned why the Ravenswood Industrial Corridor, a mile south of the proposed Labor Ready site, wasn't considered.
""Why didn't we consider this because (a day labor agency) is already a permitted use," Anderson said.
Alderman Helen Shiller, 46th, told board members that she had 50 letters of support for the day labor agency, including letters from Uptown social service organizations.
"Clearly people are looking to work," Shiller said. "In my opinion, we have a developing community and a lot of needs. This is just a small niche."
Two of the ZBA's five board members were not able to attend Friday's meeting. The ZBA requires three "yes" votes to approve special use requests.
Labor Ready opted to let the absent board members listen to recorded testimony so that the entire ZBA could weigh in on the decision.
Gigi McCabe-Miel, who chaired the meeting, said that the ZBA would notify Labor Ready and residents of its final decision "in a number of weeks."