A West Humboldt Park resident has filed a lawsuit seeking to stop the opening of an Amazon facility in her neighborhood until the company goes through a public approval process.
The lawsuit, filed in Cook County Circuit Court Tuesday by attorney Ramsin Canon on behalf of resident Maura Madden, alleges Amazon’s planned delivery facility at 1260 N. Kostner Ave. was improperly classified under the city’s zoning code and should have gone through a special use and approval process before the city’s Zoning Board of Appeals. Amazon plans to open the facility Sept. 27.
Madden, who told the Tribune she has lived in the neighborhood for 17 years, is suing under a state law that gives people who live within 1,200 feet of a property the ability to sue in order to “restrain, correct, or abate the violation (of an ordinance or ordinances),” according to her lawsuit.
The complaint alleges the 140,000-square-foot facility should have been designated a “freight terminal” under the city’s zoning code, which Madden alleges would have required Amazon to go through a special use process in front of the city’s Zoning Board of Appeal.
“Defendant constructed, maintains and uses the property in a way that violates or will violate local ordinances adopted pursuant to the city’s home rule zoning authority,” the complaint alleges.
In a statement, Amazon spokesperson Steve Kelly said the company was in the process of reviewing the lawsuit.
“We follow all applicable zoning laws and regulations when opening a new facility and we received our certificate of occupancy from the city of Chicago on August 4, 2023,” Kelly said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Planning and Development declined to comment.
A special use process would have required the notification of residents within a certain distance of the facility, the lawsuit alleges. It would have also required the project to be approved by the zoning board.
“I think as someone who literally can throw a stone from her front door and hit the side of an Amazon building, I should know what’s going on,” Madden said. She said she was particularly concerned about potential impacts of the facility on the respiratory health of children in the neighborhood.
The lawsuit alleges Madden was given “no formal notice” of the development before construction began. The complaint alleges she will “suffer from unreviewed and unstudied environmental, traffic, noise, lighting, aesthetic, and other social impacts,” because she lives near the building.
“It’s an economic opportunity for them,” said Madden, who works as an executive assistant. “Is it an economic opportunity for us? What’s the environmental impact? And can we actually believe anything that they say?”
The lawsuit asks Circuit Judge Anna Loftus to grant a preliminary injunction prohibiting the operation of the building as a freight terminal until Amazon receives special use permissions to do so.
West Side community groups have been attempting to wrangle concessions from Amazon over the project for around two years.
Community organizations have asked the corporation to hire 60% of its workforce for the site from West Side neighborhoods, as well as calls to pay wages of at least $28.50 an hour. Some organizers wanted Amazon to sign a community benefit agreement, which would have formalized a deal for the company to give certain benefits to the neighborhood in exchange for community support.
Amazon’s early plans put the building opening in late 2022. The company said early this year its opening had been delayed by supply chain issues and unspecified “business reasons.”
In January, protesters with the groups Get to Work and Black Workers Matter gathered outside the newly-painted facility, calling for Amazon to open it and hire locally.
Earlier this month, protesters with neighborhood groups Black Workers Matter, Get to Work and the West Humboldt Park Community Coalition gathered across the street from the building, again calling for commitments around local hiring and wages, as well as raising concerns about the environmental impact of the facility on the community.