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General Iron owner loses latest bid to force city to issue operating permit for recycling plant

Cook County Circuit Judge Michael Mullen’s decision comes less than a month after a federal judge tossed out a related request from the company.

Reserve Management Group’s metal recycling plant on the Southeast Side.
Reserve Management Group’s metal recycling plant on the Southeast Side.
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A Cook County judge has rejected the former General Iron’s latest effort to force Chicago to issue a permit for a car-shredding operation the company wants to operate on the Southeast Side.

Circuit Judge Michael T. Mullen’s decision comes on the heels of a federal judge in June dismissing a related request.

In his ruling, Mullen said the temporary restraining order sought by the company to force the city to issue the operating permit can only be permitted in an “extreme emergency.” Mullen said the company has the option to recover any monetary losses resulting from the lawsuit it has already filed.

“The ruling gives credence to our claim for damages resulting from the city’s broken contract and promises that we relied upon in building the most advanced and environmentally conscious metal recycling facility in the country,” Reserve Management Group/Southside Recycling, the owner of the former General Iron, said in a statement.

“While the administration touts business relocation and expansion on the South and West Sides, its hollow promises are revealed by its actions surrounding RMG’s substantial investment and expansion after 30 years of providing good jobs and commerce on the Southeast Side. Nearly three months have passed since the city suspended its permit review, and the city has yet to provide any details of what is needed or any timetable. While the city delays, damages are mounting from one of the largest capital investments the Southeast Side has seen as we continue to revitalize a former brownfield site.”

In June, U.S. District Judge Robert Dow Jr. rejected the company’s claim that its constitutional rights were being violated because Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s administration is delaying a permit decision while environmental studies are conducted.

RMG acquired General Iron in Lincoln Park in 2019 and built a new $80 million shredding facility at its longtime property along the Calumet River at 116th Street and Burley Avenue. By failing to issue an operating permit for the new Southeast Side business, rebranded as Southside Recycling, the city “has effectively taken the value of RMG’s property without just compensation,” the company said in its federal complaint.

Lightfoot has said the application for the permit is on hold at the request of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, which has called for additional Southeast Side pollution studies to be conducted to determine the cumulative impact on residents’ health.

The company said it has been strung along by city officials who initially encouraged the move to the South Side.

The city’s Law Department didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

In court filings, city lawyers said RMG had not shown that delaying the operating permit would cause irreparable harm. “It has not sufficiently shown that such damage, if proven, could not later be redressed by payment of compensatory damages,” city attorneys wrote.