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Aldermen pushing ordinance to stop potential rat problem in its tracks

The now-shuttered Children’s Memorial Hospital Lincoln Park near Fullerton. | Sun-Times files

The now-shuttered Children’s Memorial Hospital in Lincoln Park, near Fullerton. | Sun-Times files

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Updated: February 18, 2014 6:27AM

Concerned that the redevelopment of Children’s Memorial Hospital could trigger a mass exodus of rats, a North Side aldermen is determined to prevent the rodents from fleeing into neighbors’ homes.

Ald. Michele Smith (43rd) wants to require developers to maintain “above-ground bait boxes on the perimeter” of construction sites for the duration of the project and “take rodent abatement measures” no more than seven days after the work is done.

Failure to do so could result in a stop-work order.

“Neighbors have expressed concern based on past experience that, once we start a very big construction project at Children’s, there’ll be a rat issue. I want to stop that problem dead in its tracks,” Smith said.

“This would go a long way toward confining rodents and killing them on site before they can be a nuisance to the neighbors. Every neighborhood in the city suffers this with every project,” Smith said. “This is a hole in our regulatory scheme I hope we can close.”

Newly appointed Buildings Commissioner Felicia Davis could not be reached for comment on Smith’s ordinance, cosigned by more than 30 aldermen.

City Hall already requires an affidavit from a licensed pest control business before demolition permits are issued and proof that “abatement measures” were taken if rodents are discovered.

Smith’s ordinance, quietly introduced at Wednesday’s City Council meeting, casts a much broader net to catch the four-legged creatures.

It states: “No demolition, land surface modification or land clearing work shall begin until all significant rodent activity has been abated” as certified by a licensed pest control business. The abatement measures would have to continue “at least until the project begins” and continue after it ends. The same standards would apply to city sewer projects.

“The only thing [currently] required by city law is, when you tear a building down, you bait the inside of the buildings. But, everybody knows rats are not on the inside of buildings. They’re in the ground around it and, when you start tearing up the ground, the rats start fleeing,” Smith said.

“We did research nationwide and found that there are municipalities that require the ground to be baited and bait boxes to be maintained around the perimeter of a construction site while the project is going on. That seems very sensible.”

Developer Dan McCaffery has scaled down his plan for the Children’s Memorial site in Lincoln Park to include a pair of 19-story residential towers, a third building with 11 floors and 105,000 square feet of retail space.

Even though Smith is taking steps to prevent a rat invasion, that doesn’t mean she’s willing to sign off on the controversial project.

“This is not the time to talk about that,” she said Thursday. “We’re still taking all of the input from neighbors, going over their concerns and negotiating” with the developer.


Twtitter: @fspielman

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