Fountain Square tower tabled

Evanston aldermen this evening voted to postpone a vote on the proposed Fountain Square tower project until after the Plan Commission delivers a new downtown plan to the City Council.

The action came after tower supporters on the council's Planning and Development Committee determined they lacked the six-vote super-majority needed to approve the project.

The commission is scheduled discuss the downtown plan at a meeting next Wednesday, but city Planning Director Dennis Marino told aldermen he doesn't believe they'll finish work on it until June.

The motion to table came after Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, a long-time opponent of the project, moved to reject the tower plan. She said the project would "explode" the zoning ordinance and that benefits the developer is offering are totally insufficient.

Her motion was seconded by Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward.

Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward, and Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, then announced their opposition to the project -- at least in its current configuration.

Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, spoke at length in favor of the project, arguing that it will greatly ease the city's financial crisis. He then offered the motion to table, which was seconded by Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward.

Aldermen Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, and Bernstein also vote for the motion to table.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, who was chairing the meeting, voted against the motion to table, although she didn't indicate whether she favors or opposes the project itself.

Project developers Tim Anderson and Jim Klutznick said after the meeting that they weren't prepared to comment on the aldermen's action. The developers originally proposed a 49-story building on the site, but recently cut the height to 38 stories, while retaining the same 218 condominium units.

The revised proposal would still be the tallest building in the metro area outside Chicago's Loop, but only by three feet.

Project opponent Judy Fiske said the vote demonstrated a lack of leadership by the City Council, by handing the debate about the future of the Fountain Square block back to the Plan Commission. The commission had split 4-3 in voting to recommend the tower project to the council.

Comments

The Skyscraper is coming?

Like Paul Revere, Evanstonians have warned that a skyscraper is coming. While we thought that the greatest danger came from the developers, we recently learned that perhaps our biggest problem is a number of relentless, pro-skyscraper aldermen. At the special Planning and Development Committee meeting on May 7, those residents who have been working to save Evanston and stop the tower were confident that at least the issue of the skyscraper would finally be settled. The developers had stalled a decision for several weeks asking that they be allowed to redo the project. Two aldermen Bernstein and Wynne warned them that they could not just come back with a shorter building but nothing else. However, they came back with the same thing; so at the special meeting, we were confident that the developers' arrogance and stalling tactics would not be rewarded and that this horrendous project would be voted down by the council. Once the pubic testimony was over, Alderwoman Wynne did the right thing and made a motion, quickly seconded by Alderwoman Hansen, that the project be rejected. Immediately, Alderman Moran, a darling of the developers, ranted that the council needed to debate the issue and proceeded to lecture at length the residents in attendance. As each alderman spoke, however, it became clear that the skyscraper would lose and we all started to breathe a collective sigh of relief -- all the work and time had paid off. But then, Alderman Moran dropped an unexpected bomb. He made a motion, seconded by Alderwoman Rainey, to table Alderman Wynne's motion. After some confused discussion, requiring the city's legal adviser to weigh in on council procedure, the decision was made that Alderman Moran's desperate motion had to be voted on first. Obviously, the pro-skyscraper aldermen, knowing they would lose an honest vote, had planned this cowardly tactic. It was obvious that the aldermen did not really know Roberts Rules of Order, so the pro-skyscraper crowd was able to con them into accepting the new motion to table Alderwoman Wynne's motion. The vote to table the motion was then quickly taken and the following aldermen -- Moran, Rainey, Wollin, Jean-Baptiste and, oddly enough, Bernstein -- voted to allow the developers some more time and thus to keep the skyscraper alive. Well, Revere, and those who followed him, got rid of the British and gave us the right to vote. We now have to continue to wait. But once the final vote is cast on this skyscraper, we should use that weapon -- our vote -- to vote the rascals out. In the meantime, we need to continue to fight to Stop the Skyscraper!

Remember the Marina?

I recall Alderman Moran was a huge support of the Marina, which some wanted to build on our Lake front - yes to all the no name posters hundreds of NIMBYS were against the Marina. I was at the library meeting - when they were discussing this great idea - I happen to have my pink friend with me. I asked them the simple question where were they going to get the funds from to build their newest brainstorm give the city could barely run it self? ( by the way this was before they told the public about the pension screw up ) A mere 25 million plus?

Alderman Bernstein agreed with me - we had a funding crisis since we could not even fix our streets. Interestingly enough the Marina died a slow death. How much time and tax payers money went to consultants for that misadventure?

I think a few of these alderpersons are coming to their senses they are realizing they can not keep on giving the developers the taxpayers money in TIF give backs.

Alderman Moran - at one meeting wanted to take peoples homes from them using the nusiance ordinance and turn them into his pet project - affordable housing. Does anyone in their right mind think that would stand up to a legal test? more taxpayers money wasted.

When the developers of the tower are going to provide some real benifits to us taxpayers -( beyond real estate taxes years into the future used to fund TIFs) Maybe this will stand a chance to pass.

NIMBY's ride to Save Evanston

Although I'd like to see more architectural quality in the tower design (as Trib architect critic Blair Kamin aptly points out) as well as more benefits from the developer, I am not surpised about the aldermen and alderwomen who oppose this project. I sure hope the silent majority in Wynne's and Hansen's ward speak out at the polls because what's happening here is that they are capitulating to a vocal minority who are not just blindly opposed to the tower but just about any new development in Evanston. And if that minority wins this round, just wait and see how empowered they will be when the next major development comes to Evanston-and it will. They want that site to remain as is. They say they want to SAVE Evanston as if the tower is the bane of all existence not just in downtown but supposedly where most of them live-northwest Evanston. Forget the free market place, viable studies on the best use of the site, eventual tax relief and the continuance of building a dynamic and vibrant downtown unlike any other in the Chicagoland area. Sanchez, a Loyola professor, compares Paul Revere's ride, warning the British are coming to HIS warning that the tower is coming. Ah..let's recap, shall we. British invasion vs Evanston tower. American Revolution vs Evanston development. The creation of a nation vs. the creation of a highrise. Is it me or is one side of the argument about the Evanston tower skewed, exaggerated and...ah...just a little bit nutty?
Anonymous Al

The sky is falling?

Like Paul Revere? No, more like Chicken Little, prophesying doom and gloom if development occurs. The tone of Peter's article was , as usual, quite shrill. A more even-handed story can be found in the Chicago Tribune
here
. ( Although I found the Tribune's coverage too pro-NIMBY).

Peter seems to be upset because councilman are using parliamentary tactics to advance their agenda. Consider the following paragraph:

He made a motion, seconded by Alderwoman Rainey, to table Alderman Wynne's motion. After some confused discussion, requiring the city's legal adviser to weigh in on council procedure, the decision was made that Alderman Moran's desperate motion had to be voted on first. Obviously, the pro-skyscraper aldermen, knowing they would lose an honest vote, had planned this cowardly tactic. It was obvious that the aldermen did not really know Roberts Rules of Order, so the pro-skyscraper crowd was able to con them into accepting the new motion to table Alderwoman Wynne's motion.

As usual, Peter's writings are intellectually inconsistent:

1. Now if the pro-freedom aldermen had "planned this cowardly tactic", as Peter alleges, then why was it followed by 'confused discussion' ? Didn't they plan it in advance?

2. Why is using parliamentary tactics 'cowardly' ? The NIMBY's use vaguely worded referenda, lawsuits, and harassing zoning laws to advance their agenda, along with misleading posters and contradictory arguments. I guess it is acceptable for NIMBY's to use any possible tactic, but when an alderman uses parliamentary procedure, it is 'cowardly'?

3. "knowing they would lose an honest vote". How is a vote to table the matter not "honest"? Just because your side lost?

4. "pro-skyscraper crowd was able to con them into accepting the new motion to table Alderwoman Wynne's motion." Pro-skyscraper CROWD? Wait a minute, Pete...I thought that everyone...tout le monde ...was OPPOSED to the freedom tower? Now you are admitting that a Pro-tower CROWD exists?

This also contradicts your statement that the pro-freedom aldermen had "had planned this cowardly tactic". Did they plan it in advance, like you say? or were they manipulated by this nefarious "pro-skycraper crowd" because they were ignorant about Roberts' Rules, like you say? As usual, you want to have it both ways...are the aldermen scheming plotters, or are they being manipulated?

Or are you saying the the pro-freedom aldermen plotted this, and managed to confuse and con the anti-progress aldermen who didn't know Roberts' Rules? Well, that just shows that the anti-progress aldermen are ignorant, right?

Now consider a quote from the above mentioned Chicago Tribune article:

"It would be a shame if Evanston, a city with a reputation of being progressive, approves a project that changes the character of the city dramatically and irreversibly, when it seems that the majority of residents are against it," said resident Peter Sanchez. "We Evanstonians want to control our own destiny. We want to preserve our city's unique character."

What is so PROGRESSIVE about the anti-tower crowd? This word 'progressive' has been used by those who favor social equity, or those who favor business growth. Your group fits neither description.

Aren't you the guy who said that you want Evanston to be more like Glencoe and Wilmette? And talk about 'changing the character of the city' ? Is that progress? Being a haven for wealthy white people with big houses?

Your group has several people saying that we need to keep people out of Evanston, because we supposedly have too many already. Is that progress?

Instead of promoting transit-friendly development, your group promotes low-density and automobiles. Why is that progressive?

NIMBYism is intellectually bankrupt because it is so inconsistent - a bunch of wealthy people advocating government action to protect their own selfish interests. Totally indefensible from either a libertarian or socialist perspective.

As for your statement about "We Evanstonians want to control our own destiny"...well, maybe those of us who live downtown don't want some septuagenarian NIMBY's from Central Street preventing development in our neighborhood. We don't want YOU controlling anything. And this isn't your property...the developers should be allowed to do what they want without busybodies telling them what to do.

You want a charming, quaint, unique place? No skyscrapers, big businesses, condos, or chain stores? No congestion? No developers? All economic development being planned by the Central Committee? I suggest that you move to Pyongyang or Havana.

I really do hope the tower

I really do hope the tower gets built. I believe it may have negatives, but the positives outweigh it. Evanston is a city. Wilmette and winnetkia are towns. If the tower is built, it won't effect people in Evanston who live in low density residential zones, but it will have a good effect on shoppers and new home owners in the downtown area. Just build the tower so Evanston can be amazing.