Fix Wilson Yard gets okay to file another lawsuit

A group opposing the controversial Wilson Yard project in Uptown will get another chance to make its case.

Judge Mary Rochford on Friday granted a request by residents group Fix Wilson Yard to file a new lawsuit against the City of Chicago and Holsten Real Estate, the developer of the project that will feature a Target store, office space and housing for low-income families and seniors.

“We’re trying to accomplish the same thing we’ve been trying to accomplish since the beginning, which is to stop the wasting of taxpayer dollars,” says Thomas Ramsdell, Fix Wilson Yard’s attorney. “My clients are as motivated as ever.” 

Ramsdell said Fix Wilson Yard will file the lawsuit next Friday.

The original lawsuit filed by Fix Wilson Yard in December 2008 accused the city of wrongfully establishing a tax increment financing district to fund the project. 

TIFs allow taxpayer dollars to be used to develop blighted areas. The group also accused the city of violating the state Open Meetings Act, among other allegations.

Judge Rochford dismissed the case on May 12 on various grounds, including that the group missed the deadline for filing a legal action.

The new lawsuit is based on three claims.

One count alleges that amendments made in 2007 and 2008 to the redevelopment agreement entered by Holsten and the city in 2005 should have prompted an amendment to the TIF.

Another count accuses the city of violating the open meetings act. 

The third count argues that the original ordinance that established the TIF district in 2001 is “unconstitutionally vague.”

If you read the language of it, it speaks in very broad terms,” Ramsdell says.  “There’s no specifics at all.”

Tom Johnson, a lawyer for Holsten, said in court that the defendants would seek a motion to dismiss Fix Wilson Yard’s lawsuit.

He says the group's claim that the TIF ordinance is too vague is “frivolous” and that allowing Ramsdell to argue that claim would be “a waste of time."

“The judge has already ruled that it’s way too late to challenge the TIF ordinance,” Johnson says.

Fix Wilson Yard’s claim concerning the redevelopment plan amendments enacted in 2007 and 2008 are “also frivolous” says Johnson.

“The TIF act does not require an amendment to the TIF plan every time there is a change in the redevelopment agreement for the project,” Johnson says.

Johnson says that overall, Fix Wilson Yard’s claims “are meritless.”

Extensive construction has been done on the project, and there is no doubt that something will be built there, says Ramdsell.

“[The lawsuit] is about what’s going to go in [the Wilson Yard project], what the housing mix is going to look like, what the commercial mix is going to look like, who’s going to be involved in it and who’s going to pay for it,” says Ramsdell.  “If we prevail, the city will be stopped from paying taxpayer money out, and if they have already paid it out, and we prevail, the city will be entitled to get it back.”