BY LIZ BUTLER AND PETER FRIEDMAN
On March 24, 2021, the Chicago City Council adopted Ordinance 2020-4590, an amendment to the Chicago Zoning Ordinance establishing sweeping new regulations for certain industrial and manufacturing developments (the “Air Quality Ordinance”). New or expanded industrial uses will be required to undertake a robust site plan review, the process and requirements for which are summarized in greater detail below. The Air Quality Ordinance also establishes new mandatory triggers for planned development review and new public notice requirements for special use applications.
Creation of New Planned Development Review Thresholds
The Air Quality Ordinance establishes new mandatory planned development review triggers for certain industrial uses and locations. Previously, planned development review was required for large industrial developments in Manufacturing districts with either (1) net site area of 5 acres or more and located within 100 feet of a residential district, or (2) net site area of 10 acres or more. Planned development review generally was not required for large industrial developments located in Planned Manufacturing Districts (“PMDs”), unless the property was located along a waterway.
Planned development review and approval will now be required for any windrow composting facility; intensive manufacturing, production and industrial service use; Class III, Class IVA, Class IVB and Class V recycling facility; container storage; freight terminal; outdoor storage of raw material; waste-related use; or manganese-bearing material operation use when such use is proposed to be located on Commercial, Manufacturing, or PMD zoned land with a net site area of 10 acres or more or if the subject site is located within 660 feet of any Residential, Business, Commercial or Public Open Space zoned land.
Planned development review will also be required for any warehousing, wholesaling, and freight movement uses proposed to be located on Commercial or PMD-zoned land with a net site area of 10 acres or more. The Air Quality Ordinance clarifies that “fulfillment centers” fall within the “Warehousing, Wholesaling and Freight Movement” use category.
Establishment of Site Plan Review Process for Industrial Uses
Regardless of whether a project requires planned development review, special use approval, or is permitted as-of-right, the following uses must be reviewed and approved through a newly established administrative site plan review process before zoning certification and building permits will be issued: waste related uses; recycling facilities; intensive manufacturing; production and industrial service uses; warehousing, wholesaling, and freight movement; container storage; freight terminal; outdoor storage of raw material as a principal use; coke and coal bulk material uses; and windrow composting and manganese-bearing material operation uses. The site plan approval process will apply to newly-established uses or existing uses that change or increase their site/floor area, bulk, or function.
Under the new site plan review application process, applicants must submit a traffic study for review by the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and an air quality impact evaluation for review by the Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Public Health (CDPH). Both studies will be made available to the public for review and comment.
After reviewing the studies and receiving public comment, the CDOT and CDPH Commissioners will prepare and forward a joint recommendation on the proposed development to the Zoning Administrator. The Zoning Administrator may not issue a zoning certification until the joint recommendation is issued by the Commissioners.
Community Review of Industrial Uses
Prior to submitting the site plan application, but after submitting the traffic study and air quality impact evaluation, the applicant must hold at least one community meeting in the ward in which the use is proposed to be located. The purpose of the community meeting is to explain the development proposal, including the traffic study and air quality impact evaluation, and to solicit public input and feedback.
The community meeting must be held no later than two weeks prior to the date the applicant files its site plan application. The applicant must coordinate with the Zoning Administrator, who is authorized to review and approve the day, time, location and format of the community meeting. The applicant is required to provide written notice of the community meeting to the Zoning Administrator and the Alderman of the ward in which the use is proposed to be located. No later than two weeks prior to the community meeting, the applicant must mail written notice of the community meeting via USPS first class mail to the owner of the subject property and to all property owners within 250 feet of the property lines of the subject property. Notice of the community meeting must also be published in a newspaper of general circulation within the ward.
Compliance with Chicago Sustainable Development Program
Projects that are reviewed in accordance with the new site plan review process will be required to comply with the Chicago Sustainable Development Policy (CSDP). New construction projects will be required to achieve 100 points from the CSDP matrix. Renovations of existing buildings are required to achieve 25 points for moderate renovations and 50 points for substantial renovations. The CSDP Compliance Form must be completed and submitted by applicants for building permits for every project subject to the policy.
Changes to Written Notice Requirements for Special Use Approval
The Air Quality Ordinance modifies public notice requirements by mandating that all applicants for special use approval must also provide mailed written notice to the Alderman of the ward(s) in which the special use is proposed. Written notice must be provided by the applicant no more than 30 day before filing the special use application and must be sent vis USPS first class mail. These changes apply broadly to all applicants for special use approval, not just for the industrial uses that are the subject of the Air Quality Ordinance.
The Air Quality Ordinance will have significant implications for the timing, process, and approval of certain industrial and manufacturing developments or expansions. Where some development projects may have been permitted as-of-right prior to the adoption of the Air Quality Ordinance, applicants for building permits may now be required to engage environmental and traffic experts and undertake a time-consuming community engagement and public comment and review process.
The Air Quality Ordinance is effective immediately. Future projects for covered industrial uses will be required to comply with new procedural and substantive requirements prior to issuance of building permits.
With questions or for more information about the new regulations and requirements, contact any Elrod Friedman LLP attorney.