“Gan Amendment” for Small Lot Development Rejected by Planning Board

Developer Ron Gan With His Attorney Barbara Vestal (R) at Tonight's Meeting.

Developer Ron Gan With His Attorney Barbara Vestal (R) at Tonight’s Meeting.

By Carol McCracken  (Post # 2,182)

The city’s planning board did not recommend that a proposal for a text amendment to the city’s small lot zoning ordinance proceed to a public hearing before the board; which, effectively means the matter is DOA.  The proposal came from the controversial developer Ron Gan. Jack Soley was the only dissenting board member at tonight’s meeting; denying this proposal was about Sumner Court in a meeting that lasted until about 10:00 pm. because of a full agenda.

Two years ago, Gan, tried to develop his property on Sumner Court off North Street.  He unsuccessfully appealed the street frontage, which would be twelve feet instead of the required forty feet. The Zoning Board of Appeals voted unanimously to postpone the appeal until Gan could submit a title opinion that he fully owned Sumner Court.  The city never received such documentation and the matter was dropped, according to a memo provided to the planning board from Marge Schmuckal, zoning administrator. The memo also stated that Gan is in arrears for fees due for his numerous appeals to the city on the Sumner Court property.

In his introductory remarks to the board, Gan claimed that the R6 zoning has factors that inhibit small lot development, hence, his proposal to redefine what a lot is.  The proposal includes a provision that no street frontage be required in a small lot for example. A former resident of Chicago, Gan told the board that he and city councilor Kevin Donoghue (G) had walked around Munjoy Hill and discussed lots that could be developed under more relaxed zoning regulations.  According to the hot-headed Gan, Donoghue concurred with him. (Incidentally, apparently councilor Kevin Donoghue will not be running for re-election next year because his career path is hampered by that obligation.)

“Mr. Gan ….has a plan to rewrite the language in 14-139(b) (the small residential lot development provision) which is the only way he can develop his land on Sumner Court. This new language conveniently removes all the obstacles that precluded Mr. Gan from being allowed to develop his Sumner Court property two years ago.  Since there was so much opposition from the neighborhood surrounding that development, Mr. Gan has not attached this zoning text amendment to his Sumner Court project.  Instead he has crafted it around a very small project on Sheridan Street that seems fairly straight forward and somewhat benign,” Pam Jack, a Munjoy Hill home owner  informed the Board in a written statement.

Jack went on to say in part: “With this amendment, Ron Gan has written himself the perfect zoning language that would allow him to develop his lots on Sumner Court, all the while trying to convince the City it’s for the greater good.  In fact, Mr. Gan’s amendment is clearly written for his own personal gain, which he has not been transparent about.  This is a case of the fox in the henhouse.  A developer shouldn’t be allowed to draft important revisions to zoning rules affecting thousands of residents without their input or direct knowledge.”  James Cowie, a North Street property owner for 29 years,  expressed concern that no one had received notification about this meeting or another meeting that took place on June 10 this year.  “I’ve gotten dozens of post cards over the years, but not one for this issue.”

Although the board liked the overall idea proposed by the volatile Ron Gan, it decided not to rush into the matter and wait until the revision of the R6 zone is finalized later this year. Gan tried to convince the board this was merely an “administrative” matter and  that it could instruct the staff to change right now.  Chair O’Brion disagreed.

“I’m very happy with the outcome,” said Gan, sarcastically, following the planning board meeting.  “All roads lead to Sumner Court.”

editor’s note:  If you want to learn more about Ron Gan, Google him in Chicago Illinois and read the story: Can Ron Gan Extend the Boundaries of Lincoln?