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Edgewater’s Beachwalk vote dropped from November ballot over phony petitions

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The project's leader Morry Matson reportedly admits to “mistakes” during the signature collection process

This November, residents of Chicago’s Edgewater neighborhood will no longer be presented with an opportunity to weigh-in on an ambitious proposal to extend Chicago’s lakefront three-quarters of a mile between Ardmore and Devon. The measure has been booted from the ballot after signatures collected in support of the non-binding vote were determined to be fraudulent.

Known as the Edgewater Beachwalk, the initiative calls for the creation of beaches, green space, and public trails on new landfill directly in front of a number of the north side neighborhood’s lakefront residential high-rises. Preliminary renderings of the project penned by local architecture firm Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill earlier were publicly presented this year.

The recent decision to drop the referendum came after signatures submitted by Beachwalk project leader Morry Matson were challenged by area resident Anne Sullivan. According to a report by DNAinfo, the complaint was sustained by Chicago's Board of Election Commissioners after it was concluded that numerous names were forged in Matson's own handwriting. Paperwork provided by Matson also listed non-residential addresses for many of the names.

Though some condominium residents immediately impacted by the Beachwalk perhaps understandably oppose transforming their private waterfront back porches into publicly accessible park space, the biggest hurdle facing the proposal was always going to be funding.

Despite Chicago’s strained finances, Matson and other Beachwalk proponents hoped the non-binding measure would at least reveal broad public support for the project. The activist group even appealed to filmmaker George Lucas and wife Mellody Hobson for a possible naming rights deal following the couple’s decision to pull the plug on Chicago as host city for the planned Lucas Museum of Narrative Art

While Matson reportedly admits that "mistakes" were made in the signature collecting process, he intends to continue to advocate for the Beachwalk’s creation. "I promised my partner Jeff that this would be the last petition for the lakefront project that I personally do," said Matson in statement sent to Edgeville Buzz. "We are going to now look at other avenues to get this project built."