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Aldermen grapple with lakefront development

No high-rises, casinos, water parks or marinas on the lakefront. That much Evanston aldermen seemed to be able to agree on Monday night.

No high-rises, casinos, water parks or marinas on the lakefront. That much Evanston aldermen seemed to be able to agree on Monday night.

The new Clark Street Beach restroom facility under construction this morning. It’s the newest development along the lake, replacing an older restroom building nearby.

But beyond that there seemed to be far less agreement about what’s right for the waterfront, and some aldermen suggested that an idea that might initially be proposed along the lake shouldn’t be squelched, because it might turn out to be great if it was just moved inland.

"Nobody’s talking about a water park on the lake," Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said. "But a water park at James Park might be a great idea," she added.

"I don’t envision 43-story buildings on the lakefront," Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said. "But staff should actively look at anything that would be within" the lakefront master plan adopted last year.

"Any activity that comes" to the city staff "should be shared with the council, not just on the lakefront," Rainey added. "I know there are mindsets from the past about certain kinds of activities. We have lost some really exciting opportunities. There’s always room for new discussion."

But Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, argued for sticking close to the plan, which envisioned a focus on largely passive uses of the lakefront, with a minimum of buildings and commercial activity.

"I don’t want to be a stick-in-the-mud, but part of the reason why you develop a plan is so when a big ‘wow’ idea comes in you’ve already thought through what are your basic values and goals and aren’t reacting to every single thing that comes across."

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, told City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, "I don’t want to preclude you from bringing an interesting idea, but I think it should be within the general parameters of the plan, not large construction, not a casino."

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, "I’m not talking about scrapping the plan we have, but it’s not meant to be dogma. It’s meant to be a roadmap. To move forward and face our challenges we not only must enhance our resources but maximize their use."

The new restroom building will also provide a control point for beach access.

Several residents who live along the lakefront, including some who opposed the new restroom project last summer, urged the aldermen Monday to avoid any new development.

Kathryn Stallcup of 144 Greenwood St. said people want to keep the lakefront "open, green and free from commercial development."

Frank Cicero of 222 Lake St. said there should be a presumption against any additional structures at the lake because "they alter open space and block views."

He called for adding restrictions on motorized boats, jet skis and parasailing saying the noise they make "causes discomfort and annoyance for most people."

David Reynolds of 204 Davis St. said the lakefront offers something that can’t be found anywhere else. "Let it not be despoiled by commercialization on our watch," Reynolds added.

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