Tuesday, February 10, 2015

IT'S UNANIMOUS: One Year Later, Neighborhood Group Enthusiastically Backs Broadway Youth Center

BYC director Imani Rupert (L) and general counsel Michelle Wetzel
present to a 2014 Southeast Lake View Neighbors meeting. (DNAInfo)
One year after a neighborhood group voted 41-21 against supporting a zoning variance for the Broadway Youth Center (BYC), the same group Monday voted unanimously to support the center in an upcoming renewal hearing.

BYC ultimately received approval last winter from the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals to operate its youth drop-in and counseling services for one year from Wellington United Church of Christ, 615 Wellington, despite the Southeast Lake View Neighbors’ “no” vote.

Fueled by news that BYC staff had been accused of obstructing police—and a now-former BYC manager’s email that threw race, class, homophobia, transphobia, and discrimination against the disabled into the mix—the original zoning issue drew boisterous packed houses to SELVN meetings last year.

But a delightful 36 people showed up Monday, with one woman who lives near the Wellington church telling the audience that she found BYC to be “always so welcoming” as she passed the center’s doors.

And Michelle Wetzel, general counsel for BYC's parent organization, said "only one person came to office hours" established to address neighborhood concerns last year, "and she brought donations."

After a brief Q & A with Wetzel and BYC director Imani Rupert, SELVN members voted 19-0 to support the center's zoning renewal, then broke into spontaneous applause.

“We’ve come a long way,” Wetzel beamed as the claps continued, “Thank you very much.”

Hearing

The Chicago Zoning Board of Appeals is expected to take up the BYC renewal request in March.

The ZBA “doesn’t offer” one-year renewals, 44th ward worker Erin Duffy told SELVN members last month, saying the board’s action last year was “a special circumstance.”

Nonetheless, a revamped “Good Neighbor Agreement” between BYC and 44th Ward Alderman Tom Tunney specifies that the alderman and BYC will “seek to have the ZBA issue another one-year special use permit.”

Whether or not special one-year stints will be allowed is “up to the Zoning Board of Appeals,” Wetzel said Monday.

Duffy and Tunney's chief of staff, Bennett Lawson, did not respond to emails seeking comment on Monday.

Three SELVN members abstained from Monday's vote.
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