A group of Berwyn residents filed a lawsuit Tuesday to try to stop the city from letting a bakery pave over residential property to put up a parking lot.
Filed Tuesday in Cook County Circuit Court, the lawsuit contends Berwyn violated its own ordinances when its city council approved Turano Bakery Co.'s request to demolish homes it purchased to create temporary parking for its employees.
Turano Bakery has a facility on Roosevelt Road from about East Avenue to Elmwood Avenue and extending south to the alley, according to the suit that says the bakery or an affiliate also owns a handful of residential properties south of the alley behind the facility.
The bakery is not named as a defendant in the complaint, which only names Berwyn, a south suburb in Cook County that the lawsuit, by citing the city's website, paints as a community with "tree-lined streets, sturdy brick bungalows and Victorian painted ladies."
The plaintiffs -- David J. Miklos, Raymond Martinez, Jorge Perez, Thomas Thompson and RDB Property LLC -- own property near the five Turano properties, with the exception of Miklos who alleges he indirectly owns property as a manager of RDB Property.
They say they are suing to hold Berwyn accountable "for its complete failure to comply with even the most basic of its building code ordinances, the failure of which has already resulted in the demolition of numerous homes to be replaced with a parking lot."
In their suit, the plaintiffs contend Berwyn disregarded its own ordinance that requires private owners to provide notice to nearby neighbors before the city council can consider demolition applications, as well as rules on public hearings for zoning variances, landscaping and parking lot specifications and historic preservation review.
Without giving them a chance to weigh in, the plaintiffs claim the city "granted a de facto zoning variance to permit a private party to convert residential properties into private commercial parking lots," a move that "will permit parking on these nonconforming lots even though the property is zoned in a residential area that prohibits commercial parking."
According to the plaintiffs, the issue stems from a Nov. 21 letter Berwyn's 8th Ward Alderman Nora Laureto sent to the mayor and city council, asking for their approval of Turano's request to create parking areas for employees.
The letter explained Turano needed more parking because a Nov. 11 fire destroyed its delivery truck garage in Oak Park and that it had been buying nearby homes "in foreclosure or in bad disrepair" with hopes they could turn the property for parking lots this spring, but that the fire made the need more urgent.
Laureto also stresses in the letter, which was attached as an exhibit to the complaint, that Turano is the second largest employer in Berwyn and that "their bakery is a staple on Roosevelt Road."
"Many times they could have left Berwyn and moved out west but they have remained and made Berwyn their home," Laureto wrote. "I am hoping that we can work with them through this difficult situation and allow the request they have presented."
On Nov. 25, the plaintiffs assert, the city council unanimously approved the request, allowing for the homes' demolition, temporary parking until the issue could go before the Zoning Board and the waiver of an ordinance to permit parking on soft ground.
"In approving this variance, Berwyn blatantly and knowingly disregarded its own ordinances," the recently-filed complaint says.
The plaintiffs claim they received notification of demolition on Jan. 5, but when they contacted the city for information, were told the city already approved Turano's request to demo the homes to create parking lots.
The demolition of some of Turano's residential properties started on Jan. 19, but is not yet complete, although the plaintiffs say it looks like gravel has already been laid down, posing "an imminent threat" the properties will soon become commercial parking lots.
Alleging that they "have been deprived of their rights to be heard," the plaintiffs' lawsuit asks the Cook County Circuit Court to issue an injunction to prevent the City of Berwyn from violating its ordinances by allowing the creation of the lots to continue.
Without such relief, they contend they will soon be in a situation where "illegal parking" lots will be in operation before any assessment is taken on their impact to the neighborhood and its residents.
Even if the city required a zoning hearing and landscaping plan for the lots, the plaintiffs say "it is unlikely that such measures will provide the same benefits as would be achieved by holding the hearing and requiring the landscaping plan prior to the establishment of operational parking lots."
The plaintiffs are being represented by Chicago attorneys Steven S. Shonder and Peter S. Stamatis.
Cook County Circuit Court case number: 2015CH01408.