River Forest residents are urged to attend a Zoning Board of Appeals hearing this Thursday, May 8, at village hall, 7:30 p.m., and tell officials not to recommend a special-use permit request by EMSL Analytical Inc.
EMSL, seeking to relocate its lab from an industrial zone in Chicago to 7716 Madison St., may do important work testing asbestos, lead, bacteria, mold and other toxins. However, such testing is better suited to an industrial district. Why would this lab want to relocate behind the homes of dozens of families? Why would we allow it?
We are a residential block. Like it or not, kids play along the alleys and the lots of this site with skateboards, kid adventures, you name it. An unmanned drop-off box — like the one they have at their Chicago lab — with unknown samples inside, does not sit well with parents who still let their kids go out to play. And let's face it, some kids may see this new business as a new adventure.
Some have argued we have a dry cleaners and gas station in close proximity to this site, and such businesses pose greater health and environmental risks. This may be. Surely, however, it doesn't mean adding another potentially toxic site makes sense.
Not only might this leave residents at risk, but it will not be a boon for future economic development. We need forward thinking on this decision and residents need to ask for such foresight.
Fast forward 2015: River Forest will get a grant close to $1.5 million to share with Forest Park to spruce up Madison Street, with plans for bicycle pathways, sidewalks, benches, planters and the like. This is an opportunity to create a vision to develop our somewhat neglected Madison Street. A lab testing toxins will not be a big draw for new development, and it certainly won't be a spot where mothers pushing babies are going to sit down and catch a breather no matter how pretty the planters.
Forest Park has effectively enticed mom and pop niche shops to open up along Madison Street, and we need to think about how we can piggyback off of their momentum and continue the path into River Forest. Perhaps we need to look at their business plan and see if there are incentives that could make us as attractive.
EMSL has the right to apply for a permit, just as residents have the right express genuine concerns. Please attend this hearing and send a unified message to officials that we can find a better-suited business. Tell the ZBA a potentially hazardous laboratory testing toxins close to our families is unacceptable. Remind them this is a health, environmental, social, safety and economic issue and such a combination warrants careful consideration.
Tell them not to recommend a special-use permit for EMSL.
Jennifer Moore is a River Forest resident and mother to three awesome kids.
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