CHICAGO (CBS) — Three months after the implosion of a smokestack blanketed parts of Little Village in dust, a City Council panel has backed Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s plan to overhaul the approval process for future implosions, including a mandate for a public meeting and notification of nearby residents beforehand.
The mayor’s proposal would give seven city agencies – the Department of Buildings, the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection, the Fire Department, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Transportation, the Department of Water Management, and the Office of Emergency Management and Communications – 150 days to propose rules for implosion demolitions.READ MORE: 15-Year-Old Among 2 Shot In West Englewood
Those proposed rules would then have to be posted for public comment for at least 60 days, and each department could hold its own public meeting to discuss the rules and seek public input. Each department would then have to file written responses to the public comments, make any necessary changes to the proposed rules, and submit final rules to the city’s Law Department.
“We welcome any group that wishes to make comment. We encourage any group to make comments,” Acting Building Commissioner Matthew Beaudet said.
Lightfoot vowed to reform the city’s implosion permit process after the bungled demolition of a power plant smokestack in Little Village on April 11 sent a huge cloud of dust and debris into the surrounding neighborhood.
City officials fined developer Hilco Redevelopment Partners and its contractors approximately $68,000 for code violations tied to the botched implosion.
Days after that demolition, Lightfoot ordered a six-month moratorium on implosions. The new ordinance will keep a moratorium in place until the city’s Law Department finalizes the rules submitted by each city department involved in the application process.
Those applying for a demolition permit under the new process would have to write up a comprehensive plan describing the planned use of explosives; an overview of the project timeline; and plans for security, dust mitigation, health and safety precautions, transportation, hazardous materials abatement, air quality monitoring, emergency response, rodent abatement, site cleanup, and community notification.
Plans would have to be approved by OEMC and the Departments of Buildings, Fire, Police, Public Health, Streets and Sanitation, and Transportation before any implosion could take place.
The ordinance also would require anyone applying for an implosion permit to provide evidence that they have mailed written notice to the owners and occupants of every building within 1,000 feet of the property lines of demolition site, as well as to the ward’s alderman.READ MORE: Man's Body Pulled From Lake Michigan In Evanston, Hours After Crews Rescuing 3 Other People Find His Belongings On Beach
The applicant also would be required to host a public meeting with room for at least 50 people to ask questions for at least two hours, within 30 to 60 days after filing an implosion application with the Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection.
The ordinance also requires the applicant to post a 4-by-8-foot sign with 6-inch lettering on the site of the planned implosion, describing the intended use of explosives, as well as the date, time, and location of the public hearing.
No implosion license could be issued until at least 90 days after an application has been filed, and no less than 30 days after the required public hearing.
Although the Zoning Committee on Tuesday signed off on the mayor’s proposal, several aldermen suggested they should have a greater say in decisions on whether or not to issue implosion permits.
“This process is going to circumvent once again aldermanic input and approval of anything that’s happening in our wards, and I want you to proceed with caution,” said Ald. Anthony Beale (9th), the only committee member to vote against the proposed ordinance.
Ald. Raymond Lopez (15th) said he’s also concerned about the inclusion of aldermanic and community input in the permit process.
“We’ve seen with Hilco the disaster that befell the Little Village community, not once but twice, especially after we were told that demolitions were coming to a halt, and they started up again. That scene should never repeat itself,” he said. “I think it would be well wise for us as a city to give as much notification, and get as much community input as possible, so that everyone knows what’s going to go down in their neighborhood.”
Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), whose ward includes the Hilco implosion site, said it will be vital for the city departments involved in the implosion permit process to reach out to all 50 aldermen to make sure they have input on the rule-making process.
“I think people are going to have a lot of interest on these rules, particularly how they impact them,” Rodriguez said.MORE NEWS: Chicago Weather: Last Weekend Of Summer May Be Among Nicest
The ordinance now goes to the full City Council for consideration on Wednesday.