The City Council has scheduled a special meeting Monday to discuss the Plan Commission.
No details about the meeting were announced, but its known that some aldermen are concerned about dissension on the commission over the draft downtown plan.
The split between commissioners who are generally satisfied with building height limits proposed in the plan and those who want sharply lower height limits led to a walkout by some commissioners at Wednesday’s meeting.
Other recent commission sessions have been the scene of angry personal exchanges among the commissioners.
The aldermen also have scheduled an executive session to discuss personnel matters following the public discussion of the Plan Commission at 6 p.m. in the Aldermanic Library.
Inequities that must be fixed
In the Evanston Review, Bob Seidenberg has an article about this incident, saying:
‘… Nyden, who is part of a new activist bloc that includes commission members Coleen Burrus and Robin Schuldenfrei, defended the action.
She said her proposal would move back heights in the downtown core to make it more uniform in scale with surrounding buildings.
“Right now,” she said, pointing to the Barnes and Noble site on a map, “this can only be five stories, and across the street you can do 42-stories (according to the consultants ‘recommendations.) That doesn’t line up. We are creating incredible inequities downtown by doing this.” ‘
While I disagree with Joanna Nyden’s agenda, she does raise a good point. That inequity (5 stories for B&N, and 42 across the street) wouldn’t be good.
I think that the Planning and Development Committee needs to remedy this by increasing the height limit on the Barnes & Noble site.
Plan Comission and Ideas of Draft for Petiton for Downtown Plan
Height has not turned out to be what turns my attention to the downtown plan. Rather, the plan, if accepted, would exclude all Plan Comission invovlement with future downtown proposals. SPAARC and the Zoning Board of Appeals, and maybe Council if variations sought were interpreted as Major Variations by the zoning administrator, would be involved. But, no Plan Comission. All this focus on height is short-sited. What is eye-popping in the draft is the elimination of the Plan Comission for future downtown planning, should this daft become a petition that is then voted on by the Council in the affirmative as a zoning Code and Map amendment. Please correct me if this is not an accurate interpretation of the curent “draft plan.”
Pick your poison
In general terms the draft plan attempts to respond to criticism (largely from residents) about “uncertainty” in the current zoning process by specifying more clear-cut limits on what is allowed and to respond to criticism of “delays” in the process (mostly from developers) by making it possible for projects that meet the new limits to proceed with far less individualized public review.
It’s a trade off.
If developers know in advance exactly what is allowed, they can quickly decide whether to build in Evanston.
If there’s room for much negotiation, they can can take the risk of delay in hopes of pulling off something more profitable.
But if the rules are too restrictive and the process still imposes much delay, then all the development goes somewhere else.
Whether Evanstonians really want to eliminate individualized review of projects and all the uncertainty that creates is an open question, and a good one.
Pick Your Poison, Amen
I think your observations are dead-on. And, I also don’t know how this will come out in the end. It may be the battle of all battles of the Plan Commission: to recommend a proposal that takes the Plan Commission out of future downtown proposals. Do residents want to keep going to prolonged meetings to try to make a point, and that on a case by case basis? Maybe yes, maybe no.
I am ambivalent that the menu of public benefits as proposed can be maintained. It wasn’t so long ago that on Chicago Ave the “no parking structure” within 20′ of the lot line on a street, in C1A zoning, was poo-pooed by a locally famous architect as a silly restriction. We were told that the proposed building then was too fine to stop, based merely on that restriction. Since such an interior parking set-back from the lot line along streets is the same kind of restriction as recommended in the downtown plan, I suspect when push comes to shove such may be the same kind of response when downtown proposals come in that need a variation from the Form Based design provisions. A hearing about that at the ZBA is not the same kind of hearing as one experiences at the Plan Commission. My vote on settling future downtown proposals at ZBA is still undecided.
The Plannng Commission is dysfunctional. The commisssioners are divided between the developer and the commissioners who want to preserve Evanston .
The developer has monetary returns in mind and the opposition wants to maintain the charm of Evanston. Is this a new phenomenon? I hope Council has read Robert’s Rules of Order to consider taking a tabled motion out of committee. There appears to be a groundswell of public opinion against the development of a higher that 25 or 27 story condo, especially when the developer asks the city to contribute $3 million.
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