Don’t Fret, Chick-fil-A Still Hates Gays

I was reading about the new Architecture Dean of IIT in Crain’s, when I saw, Ald. Moreno dumps Chick-fil-A, again. Would you like fries with that?

Feathers are flying again in the battle between Alderman Proco Joe Moreno (1st) and Chick-fil-A’s desire to put a store in Logan Square.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that Mr. Moreno has rescinded his previous offer of allowing the Atlanta-based fast-food chain to put a stand-alone store in his ward. The alderman now believes that Chick-fil-A officials lied to him about their intent to …

Crain’s is subscription, but the Sun-Times reports that Moreno is incensed that Dan Cathy has publicly reassured conservatives that he is still one of them:

On Friday, Moreno complained that, two days after he declared his support for the 1st Ward store, Cathy appeared on the cable TV talk show hosted by former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and claimed that the “promises” made to Moreno were nothing new and that Chick-fil-A had not changed its policies. …

“I’m not meeting with them any more. We’re done. He’s already come out publicly and said the company has not changed their ways. The executive vice president told me they had. So, one of ‘em’s lying and I’m not gonna figure out who it is,” Moreno said.

“He’s countered what his executives have told me and have given to me — both the letter and the Chick-fil-A statement. He’s gone against that. Now, it’s not even a question of this [gay marriage] issue. I was lied to. Either their executive vice president lied to me or Dan Cathy is lying. I don’t know who it is. But, someone is not telling the truth and I have no patience for that.”

As for Cathy, Moreno said, “He needs to stop dancing around the issue. He needs to publicly come out and say, `Our company does not discriminate against those of any sexual orientation, both on its hiring and its serving.’ If he comes out and says that, we’re at a different day. But, he hasn’t said that.”

The Tribune adds to the story:

Moreno’s latest change of heart on the issue came after the alderman saw a statement by Cathy posted on conservative politician Mike Huckabee’s website.

Cathy wrote that his company did not change “practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago.”

The statement went on to say that “Chick-fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been.”

So what happens now? When this story first broke, well-meaning liberals defended Dan Cathy’s first amendment rights to both hate gays and open a new business. It is worth noting that most suburban zoning codes that I’ve read simply ban adult bookstores. Period. First amendment rights be damned.

As far as I am concerned, Cathy can hate everyone not like him and still open a business. He can even tell Mike Huckabee how much he hates people not like him on Sunday, and fry all the chicken he wants the rest of the time. I won’t shop there, but anyone else can make up their own mind. Moreno, however, has the city fabric to consider.

Moreno said he’s not at all concerned about a lengthy legal battle that could cost the city dearly.

“If they want to go that route, they have the right to go that route. But, I’m not gonna base my policy decisions and equal rights for people based on the fact that this company might sue,” he said.

“Zoning is not a right. It’s a privilege. They want a change in the zoning code to allow them to come in. … What they’ve shown is that they’re irresponsible. If they do want to go to court, the city is gonna have a strong case that they’re an irresponsible business owner.”

A change in zoning, which is what Moreno meant, is not really even a privilege, it is more of a special grant. Zoning amendments or variances are not automatic. You have certain rights under zoning, but a lot more restrictions. In a residential zone, you have the right to build a residence. You can’t build right up to the property line, though, unless that zone allows it. You can’t run a business in your house unless zoning allows it. You can’t build a multifamily residence unless that zone allows multifamily residences. Et cetera.

You have the right to appeal zoning restrictions, usually on the basis of hardship. If your site is too narrow, or too steep to build within the setbacks, you can ask for an amendment or a variance. But you can’t create a hardship, such as a big swimming pool, then expect to get a variance to build your garage closer to the street. You can ask for anything, but the zoning board doesn’t have to grant it unless they think it is reasonable, and of no harm to the neighboring community. Essentially zoning boards are part of local politics, and the parties do play hardball. Reputation, connections and influence have a large impact in zoning results.

Chick-fil-A (CfA) is asking both to subdivide property and for relief from parking requirements. A fast food restaurant will generate a lot more short term parking than many other uses. CfA doesn’t want to build a parking lot, they just want people to walk in or park on the street. CfA claims that their business will provide jobs and is worth accommodating.

Moreno, playing hardball, counters that CfA can’t encourage discrimination, and still expect to get special consideration from a zoning board in a city that celebrates diversity.

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