Aldermen agreed tonight in response to a consultant’s report that they need to work on at least a partial rewrite of the city’s comprehensive plan and its zoning ordinance.

The report, from Virchow Krause & Company, said the council should develop a vision statement that would guide staff and the city’s advisory review boards in assessing whether proposed developments match city goals.

That, the consultants concluded, would remove much uncertainty and delay from the development review process.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said the zoning ordinance, which was developed in the early 1990s, “does not reflect what the community thinks development should be in Evanston. Developers read our ordinance and don’t understand why they run into so much flack.”

The comprehensive plan was developed almost a decate later.“People like the comprehensive plan,” Alderman Edwin Moran, 6th Ward, said, “but we’re not real sure what it means when we try to reduce it to a specific situation.”

Ald. Wynne said the plan “is this wonderful utopian document, but it’s not linked enough to facts on the ground. And our zoning ordinance has some other city in mind than what’s described in the comprehensive plan.”

The aldermen discussed, but seemed to be leaning against imposing a moratorium on planned development projects while they try to come up with a consistent planning vision.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said the council should focus on selected areas of town that have the most pressing zoning concerns. “A complete rewrite is not necessary and is byond our capability given everything else we have on our plate.” she said.

The consultant’s report also called for a variety of administrative changes to streamline the development process and for the council to place more reliance on the professional skills of the community development staff in reviewing project proposals.

Aldermen generally praised the report. Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, “It’s really an outstanding report, even if it’s telling us things we don’t want to hear sometimes.”

A copy of the full consultant’s report is available as an attachment below.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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