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SELVN delays BYC vote until January
by Matt Simonette

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Members of South East Lake View Neighbors ( SELVN ) will wait another month before voting on whether to recommend that Ald. Tom Tunney back an appeal for a zoning variance allowing Broadway Youth Center ( BYC ) to continue in their current location at Wellington Avenue United Church of Christ ( WAUCC ), 615 W. Wellington Ave.

Much of planned the vote hinges on a written Good Neighbor Agreement prepared by officials from SELVN, BYC and Tunney's office. A draft of the document had not been finished until just three days prior to SELVN's Dec. 9 meeting, which was held at Second Unitarian Church, 656 W. Barry Ave.

"We're working diligently on this issue, to try to get the best agreement for the neighborhood—one that works for all parties," Tunney said.

Tunney and Michelle Wetzel, general counsel to Howard Brown Health Center, which oversees BYC's operations, also said that the organization is considering the possibility of BYC taking over space at the site of the Lakeview Specialty Clinic, 2861 N. Clark St. But Wetzel added that those discussions were in the very early stages and that HBHC officials had just taken an initial tour the week before.

While BYC officials and community activists, and some neighborhood residents, say that the Center is offering valuable services for LGBT youths in the current location, other residents have expressed worry over security and loitering issues, among other matters.

Tunney has not decided on what he will recommend to the Zoning Board of Appeals. He said he was receiving emails from constituents that were evenly divided between asking him to support or recommend against BYC's appeal. The current zoning does not allow for the medical services that the organization provides to its clients.

"When I do testify in front of the ZBA, which is fairly often—sometimes in support and in opposition—it has gone either way," Tunney said. The Zoning Board Meeting concerning BYC will take place Jan. 17.

The Good Neighbor Agreement would spell out a number of guidelines that address neighborhood concerns, and would be appended to BYC's application. Its guidelines would furthermore be mandated should BYC be allowed to stay at the Wellington location.

A number of meeting participants were concerned about the agreement's overall enforceability. Most of the principals, however, felt that having Tunney be a signatory on the document, which he has agreed to do, would ensure that BYC adhered to its tenets.

The meeting occasionally got unruly, as SELVN President Jan Sumrall on a few occasions stopped the meeting to stop audience members from holding up signs in favor of BYC. "This is a meeting…not a rally," she said.

Sumrall allowed the public only to ask questions about BYC and not register comments, adding that the previous month's SELVN meeting was almost completely taken up by business related to the Center.

Should BYC end up on the Clark Street location, they also would need special use zoning clearances, Tunney said. The organization would furthermore also need to complete a Good Neighbor Agreement for that location, according to Sumrall.

"The issues would be the same, though the location is different," Tunney said.

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