Thursday, July 1, 2010

Another "Mystery Rezoning" Request For The McJunkin Building

In the fall of 2008, Uptowners owning property near Wilson and Broadway received a seemingly endless list of rezoning requests for the McJunkin Building at 4554 N Broadway. The first one came from the Law Offices of Brendan Shiller and the subsequent ones from his office mates, Johnson Jones Snelling Gilbert & Davis, PC (the very same law firm that sent out subpoenas to uncover the identities of everyone who posted on Uptown Update and Buena Park Neighbors, as well as those of the bloggers).

The first rezoning request proposed that the McJunkin Building be rezoned so that it could accomodate "commercial housing" (a phrase that no one can define legally, and one that Brendan Shiller denied knowing anything about, even though he was handling the matter and had signed the letter that went out to residents).

That request was withdrawn, and then another was filed, a few weeks later. Oddly, although "commercial housing" appears nowhere in the zoning code, this notice also said that was the goal of having the building rezoned.

Then, a week later, yet another rezoning notice arrived, also from the same firm, nearly identically worded, except it made no mention of commercial housing. It said that the McJunkin was being rezoned so that an existing restaurant could have liquor sales, and that "more kinds of businesses" would be able to operate on the premises. We suppose the idea was not for us to worry our pretty little heads about what specifically was to go in there.

When a rezoning notice finally went up in October 2008, the "description of the nature, scope and purpose of the application or proposal" (as required by law) was simply stated as: "To change B1-5 neighborhood shopping district to B3-3 community shopping district to establish more kinds of businesses on property."

Could the wording have been more vague? What other kinds of businesses? What would possibly require a zoning change? And what about that oh-so-nebulous "commercial housing" that two different attorneys mentioned, a phrase that has no legal definition?

We heard nothing more about the rezoning of the McJunkin, except to note that the "existing restaurant" in the building, The Best Steak House, apparently already has a liquor license. One that would be included in its proposed sale. It rather begs the question of why a rezoning would be necessary for it to obtain a liquor license, since it already has one!

Flash forward to June 2010. Lookie here, look what arrived in the mailboxes of property owners around Wilson and Broadway! A reader sent in another rezoning notice she received, identical to the third one sent almost two years ago, except for the name of the attorney handling the matter.
  • Still asking for a liquor license for an existing restaurant (even though it already has one).
  • Still asking for "more kinds of businesses" to come to the McJunkin without being in the least bit specific about what kinds of businesses might want to set up shop that can't now, under the existing zoning.
We still think it's all as fishy as Helen's proposed aquaponics center, and the lack of real information, as well as the disappearing "commercial housing" phrase, has us very, very suspicious about the timing and the motives involved. We wondered in September and October of 2008, and we're left wondering again in the summer of 2010: What the hell is being planned for the McJunkin and why aren't residents being given full disclosure about it?

Update: Well, this is interesting. The attorney handling "McJunkin 2010" is Kellie Walters. Ms. Walters is or was an attorney with the Civil Rights Center. Brendan Shiller's website says: "In 2007, the Law Office of Brendan Shiller joined with Erickson & Oppenheimer to form the Civil Rights Center, a joint legal venture that pursues civil rights and police abuse cases."

Call us craven and suspicious, but isn't it funny that every single attorney involved in rezoning a building for "more kinds of stores" is connected professionally to Brendan Shiller, who does all Mom's legal finagling? And another attorney who earns (or earned) a living suing the police is suddenly very interested in filing zoning requests?


  1. And this is why I LOVE Uptown Update. One can no longer be deceitful to the public and get away with it for long.

  2. I hear you holy moley, this post is UU, and by extension, blogging, at it's best.

  3. This is odd. From City of Chicago website, I've listed all the specific uses not allowed in B1 that could or would be allowed in B3. Any guesses about whether any of these will be coming soon?

    Allowed but only with special use permit in B1 – allowed in B3 w/o special use:

    Assisted Living Facilities (elderly)

    Not allowed in B1, allowed in B3:

    Animal Services: Veterinary
    Employment Agencies (cf. day labor below)
    Communication Service Establishments
    Construction Sales/Service: Building Material Sales
    Restaurant, General
    Medium venues (150-999 capacity)
    Banquet or Meeting Halls
    Electronic Data Storage Center
    Coin Operated Laundromat
    Residential Storage Warehouse
    Sports & Recreation, Participant: Outdoor
    Sports & Recreation, Participant: Amusement Arcade
    Auto Supply/Accessory Sales
    Light Equipment (vehicle) sales/rentals (e.g., auto, motorcycle, and boat sales)
    Motor vehicle repair shop (excluding body work, painting)
    Catering Service
    Laundry/dry cleaning plant (max 2 employees)
    Class I recycling facilities

    Not allowed in B1, allowed with special use approval in B3:

    Lodge or Private Club
    Animal shelter/kennel
    Body art services
    Day labor employment services
    Payday loan store
    Pawn shop
    Liquor Store
    Fortune Telling Service
    Gas Station
    Entertainment Cabaret

  4. Thanks for that research, Betty. The special uses list is especially worrisome. Day labor, hotel, payday loans, pawn shop? No thank.

  5. So I've called both numbers several times to inquire what the intended changes are and every time the call goes to voicemail. I've left messages and still no return call. Now, when you call the 773 # it rings 4 or 5 times and then goes dead. Makes me wonder even more of what they are up to with this change.

    Also, the posting includes different spellings of Kelly or Kellie, is this a hoax or just sloppy work?