by Michael R. Allen
At yesterday’s zoning appeal hearing for Pyramid’s McDonald’s relocation project (read more at Urban Review), items introduced into evidence was a purported letter from Mayor Francis Slay supporting the relocation.
One of the people who spoke in favor of an appeal was a woman living on Arkansas Avenue in one of the homes at Keystone Place. She stated that she would never have purchased her home had she known McDonald’s would be moving across the alley from her home. Furthermore, she stated, a couple on her block had placed their home for sale and moved to Richmond Heights in response to the announcement that McDonald’s was coming. (Not too drastic a move given the collusion of alderwoman, powerful developers and lucrative junk food that makes an announcement of a plan tantamount to its approval in the current alderman-driven development system.)
Are we to believe that Mayor Slay, an avowed urbanist and supporter of great density, supports the move of a nuisance business with low lot density to a location where it will lower home values and cause residents to leave new city homes?
Maybe, maybe not. Steve Patterson and others have pointed out that Mayor Slay (along with State Senator Maida Coleman and State Representative Mike Daus) sent his letter to support the construction of senior housing by Pyramid at Grand and Chippewa. That this construction would entail demolition and/or relocation of McDonald’s is obvious; however, the mayor did not expressly support spot zoning for the location at Grand and Winnebago as some people have claimed.
Perhaps the mayor could show leadership in this situation by supporting dense new construction at Grand and Winnebago as well as at Grand and Chippewa. This new construction could include McDonald’s, but a drive-through of any kind would be a detriment to a part of South Grand showing great signs of renewal.
Of course, no mayoral opinion in the world has as much force as the action of an alderman. Until we change the city charter to limit aldermanic control over development, consistent zoning is impossible. That does not excuse the actions of Alderwoman Jennifer Florida, but it does suggest that there is a much deeper problem that needs resolution as soon as possible. (Nay, this problem should have been resolved fifty years ago before our population sunk below 500,000 residents.)
I hope that committed citizens defeat the McDonald’s relocation. And I hope that they keep fighting until they abolish the aldermanic stranglehold on development and zoning that is preventing this city from developing an urban comprehensive zoning plan worthy of a great city.