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Aldermen reject land sales restraints

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An effort to tie the City Council's hands on disposing of park land failed Monday night, and aldermen set a special meeting later this month to discuss the sale or lease of a city-owned lakefront mansion.

A dejected Larry Raffel of the park board leaves the podium after his resolution is rejected.

An effort to tie the City Council's hands on disposing of park land failed Monday night, and aldermen set a special meeting later this month to discuss the sale or lease of a city-owned lakefront mansion.

The Human Services Committee rejected the latest version of a plan from the Parks and Recreation Board first presented last fall.

The proposal had started as an ordinance that would have required the purchase of equivalent park land for any land sold.

As presented Monday night, the measure, now watered down to the form of a resolution rather than an ordinance, tried to require aldermen to place any profit received from the sale or lease of park land into a special fund to be used for park land purchase or park upkeep and maintenance.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, noted that the proposal had now been on the committee's agenda four different times.

Park Board member Larry Raffel of 3509 Central St. said it was important to set a policy that any park land sold would be replaced — and if not, that the money received from the sale would at least be used for park purposes.

Grover said she was "supportive of the resolution," but not comfortable with the requirement that the money be placed into a separate fund.

With only four of the five committee members present, Alderman Delores Holmes said that though she had the same concerns as she'd had with the earlier proposed ordinance, she thought the issue should be postponed until all the committee members were present.

But Raffel said, "It's time to vote. If the committee doesn't want to move it forward, then it's dead."

He rejected a suggestion that the park board members meet again with city staff to try to come up with another compromise. "We've taken this down as far as we can take it. At some point it really has no value any more."

With that, the committee voted to "receive and file" the report from the park board, effectively killing the proposal.

The Hadley Clarke mansion, the current home of the Evanston Arts Center (file photo).

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz told the committee that city staff is still in the process of getting an appraisal on the value of the Hadley Clarke mansion, but hopes to have that completed in time for a special Human Services Committee meeting at 6 p.m. on April 16.

He said he hoped the committee then would review the process for soliciting proposals for the sale or lease of the mansion, which is now the home of the Evanston Arts Center.

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