Alderman of Pilsen files complaint against Lightfoot over rezoning of St. Adalbert’s Church

PILSEN — Ald. Byron Sigcho-Lopez (25th) has filed a complaint with the Inspector General’s office against Mayor Lori Lightfoot, accusing the mayor of intervening in the rezoning of St. Adalbert’s Church to favor the Archdiocese of Chicago.

Sigcho-Lopez moved to relocate the church site to 1628-1650 W. 17th St. in an effort to force any developer to engage with Pilsen neighbors and former St. Adalbert parishioners on future plans of the property.

The alderman’s ordinance was passed by the zoning committee last week, though a representative from the archdiocese said he would likely sue the city if passed and city prosecutors warned that the city could potentially lose a lawsuit. It was to be presented to city council on Wednesday, but the mayor’s allies blocked the vote.

During the stormy city council meeting, Sigcho-Lopez accused the mayor of following the direction of the archdiocese and Cardinal Blase Cupich of intervening in the affairs of his neighborhood.

Sigcho-Lopez lambasted Lightfoot for usurping aldermen’s prerogative, or the custom of deferring to aldermen on major developments in their wards. The mayor repeatedly told the alderman that he was “out of order”.

“In the 25th arrondissement, we have a serious travel problem, … the problem of corruption and developers taking over our community is a very real problem,” Sigcho-Lopez told council Wednesday. “It’s a shame what we continue to see from this administration…the lack of due process in many of the decisions we make every day.

“Your political platform has tried to take the prerogative of alderman, look what the prerogative of mayor has done for our city. It’s chaos. Are you an incompetent mayor? Sigcho-Lopez shouted.

“What you said are blatant lies that will be dealt with in due course,” Lightfoot said in response.

The mayor’s office and the inspector general’s office could not immediately be reached for comment.

Sigcho-Lopez said Tuesday he hopes an investigation by the inspector general’s office will shed light on the mayor’s decision to get involved in the zoning process for St. Adalbert and correct any violations of the separation of powers.

“This is an opportunity for us to bring our community together for a positive outcome, but the behind-the-scenes maneuvering and deals that are happening are only hurting and displacing more residents,” he said. “The results when we don’t listen to our residents have big consequences.”

Lightfoot’s administration did not immediately respond to questions.

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An earlier effort to impact development through a downgrade in the 25th Ward ended up costing the city millions in litigation.

In 2016, the former Ald now disgraced. Danny Solis (25th) decommissioned Pilsen’s largest vacant site at 16th and Peoria streets from residential to industrial use, effectively block the development the. Real Estate Markets Group Promoter offers building 500 apartments and a park, but residents and activists, including Sigcho-Lopez, wanted more affordable housing.

After Solis downgraded the property, Property Markets Group sued the city in 2018. Earlier this year, the city purchased the site for $12 million to settle the lawsuit.

St. Adalbert was founded in 1874 by Polish immigrants. The church building was constructed in 1912. In 2016, the Archdiocese announced that it would merge six Pilsen churches into three, closing St. Adalbert as part of this merger. They cited changing demographics, low Mass attendance and declining numbers of priests as reasons for reconfiguration.

The Archdiocese also said more than $3 million is needed to repair the 185 foot towers of the church, who have been surrounded by scaffolding for years.

Polish and Mexican parishioners fought for years to save him. The church hosted its last mass in 2019.

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Jerry B. Hatch