Congrats to Wednesday Journal for making the joint efforts of the residents of Oak Park and Galewood front page news. However, the Journal needed to do a bit more fact-checking before running the story [OP, Galewood residents unite against pawn shop, News Jan. 23]. Jan. 18 was the hearing before the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), not the hearing described in the article. This is the hearing at which many people from the 36th and the 29th wards, as well as Oak Park, were present to support those of us who testified against opening an EZ Pawn. At the end of the day, the ZBA votes on each zoning application and posts the results the following Wednesday, in this case Jan. 23.
Despite evidence presented countering EZ Pawn’s claims of being a benefit to the community, the ZBA approved the special use permit. The vote was 3-1 in favor of EZ Pawn, stating “the shop is necessary for public convenience without significant impact on the area’s general welfare.”
Why the ZBA chose to grant EZ Pawn a permit is open to question. Could someone be getting ready to challenge Mayor Emanuel? The Chicago Department of Housing & Economic Development recommended against granting the permit. Additionally, on Saturday, Jan. 12, Mayor Emanuel proposed an ordinance limiting both pawn shops and title-secured lenders to at least 1,000 feet apart. It passed the City Council Committee on Zoning on Jan. 14 and the full City Council approved it on Jan. 17, the day before the hearing. Ald. Deborah Graham (29th Ward) voted for the ordinance, yet may have written a letter supporting EZ Pawn.
During the ZBA hearing, Sam Toia, ZBA board member, pulled a letter from the file and read it silently to himself. He then stated that it came from Ald. Graham and that she supports EZ Pawn’s application. The ZBA will not release the letter. Additionally, Sam Toia, who was recently made head of the Illinois Restaurant Association, owns Leona’s Restaurant in Oak Park. He should lobby EZ Pawn to open a shop in the vacant store next door to Leona’s on Madison.
Frances M. Sapone