Evanston aldermen Monday night voted to block nonprofit groups — but not commercial businesses — from setting up indoor recreation facilities on some land zoned for industrial use.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, proposed the amendment to a staff-prepared zoning change, saying she didn’t want to see industrial property taken off the tax rolls. Even a vacant industrial property yields more to the city in taxes than a nonprofit use would, Rainey argued.

The change appears to scuttle plans by the Evanston Soccer Association to use an existing warehouse-style building in an industrial zone on Dempster Street between Dodge and Hartrey avenues in the 2nd Ward for practices and matches.

At the same time, it should clear the way for a commercial venture to set up a practice facility for soccer, lacrosse and baseball behind the GFS Marketplace store on Oakton Street in Rainey’s own ward.

City staff had proposed adding indoor recreation as an allowed special use in the I2 industrial zone — based on the proposals from the two groups and on the difficulty in finding new traditional industrial users for much of the industrially zoned land in the city.

The proposal had won approval from the city’s Plan Commission.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said he wasn’t sure that the change Rainey proposed would be effective in achieving her goal, but in the end he joined the rest of the aldermen in voting for it.

Update 9:15 a.m.: In an email message this morning, Wilson said he doesn’t believe the amendment will be effective in precluding nonprofits from winning approval to operate indoor recreation facilities in the I2 zone.

Rainey’s opposition to plans to turn the long-vacant Shure Industries plant on Hartrey Avenue into a Jewish day school because of concerns about the loss of tax revenue persuaded the City Council to reject that project — a decision that has led to a long-running lawsuit against the city by the school.

The council is scheduled to take a final vote on the proposed indoor recreation zoning change at its May 13 meeting.

Related story

Indoor sports rezoning goes to Council

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. ….. keep the buildings vacant …

    that's much better than letting the community use it.  

    I'd much rather see industrial blight than allow Team Evanston  – which supports Evanston youth – to create an indoor soccer field.  

    If we prevent interested local citizens from developing the facilities they need then we can keep giving the money to Highland Park.

    That makes all the sense in the world.


    1. Perfect sense

      It does make perfect sense, especially in light of the fact that someone wants to build a commercial facility, offering basically the same services.  Important  difference, the commercial facility, as well as the now vacant one, will pay property tax to all the school districts and the city and therby also sharing the tax burden and helping bring relief to all Evanston taxpayers. 

      The other one will pay nothing to anyone and more than likely would eventually come up before the city requesting direct cash subsidy from the taxpayers.  Thereby creating further burden on the taxpayers and possibly having that offset by reducing streams to the schools, parks, city.

      Makes perfect sense to me, good job council, not removing more land from the tax roles for the non for profits is sound judgement. 

      1. It’s not coming off the tax roles

        The building that Team Evanston would potentially lease would be owned by a for-profit enterprise and so remain on the tax rolls. And it may in fact also use the new commercial facility as well.

      2. Big mistake

        No taxes would be lost here…Evanston Soccer Association was hoping to  RENT the building.  The owner would still be paying property taxes.

        By barring them from doing so:

        *A building that is dire need of repurposing will be left vacant.

        *A struggling commercial area  would lose much needed traffic.  This would have generated A LOT of buisness.  (Parents would have been able to shop at the Dominics while their kid practiced, kids could have grabbed a quick dinner on their way to or from practice, donuts and coffee before the morning game…)

        *Evanston sports organizations will continue to pay huge fees to neighboring communites to use their indoor facilities.

        This seems more like Alderman Rainey doesn't want any competition for the commercial indoor facility that may go in her own ward.

  2. Did anyone vote yes? Tendam and campaign promises upheld?

    Alderman Tendam said he would support indoor sports. Did he vote yes?


  3. Funny if not so sad

    The Council wants to limit non-profits because [some] projects would reduce taxable land.

    Yet they fight so many businesses from building/opening with zoning meeting after meeting, 'investigations', rules and regulations, high taxes, determinations if these are the 'types of businesses' they want [or the voters in the area that hold the alderman as captive agents].  E.g. the old Kendall College site.

    Of course if they all of a suddent decide a wine or beer stop fits their electorial needs–then they set all 'objections' aside and give them whatever exemptions and financing they need.

    1. Different aldermen

      "The Council wants to limit non-profits because [some] projects would reduce taxable land.

      Yet they fight so many businesses from building/opening with zoning meeting after meeting,"

      You are mixing up different aldermen.

      Judy Fiske  is the one who prevents development at places like Kendal, and is always pandering to Concerned Neighbors.

      Ann Rainey rightly wants to limit the number of non-taxable activities.

      The difference is that Rainey actively supports development….consistently.

      Fiske consistently opposes all development.

  4. Misplaced priorities

    City council members, I am disappointed in you.  I want to give you the benefit of the doubt and believe that you have our community's best interests at heart when you make decisions, but honestly, I fail to see your motivations in this case.

    This decision seems tunnel-visioned at best.  So we get that the city wants and needs tax revenue.  But you'd rather see vacant properties remain vacant because they might generate some tax revenue, when, in the alternative, your constituents — the children and adults of Evanston — could be benefitting from a not-for-profit recreational use of the properties?  That seems unfortunately misguided and irrational.  The best interests of the city aren't always purely economic.  Yet it seems that the city council members, city manager, and mayor only see dollar signs when they're making decisions. 

    City council members — please stop deferring to Ann Rainey and others who, for some reason that is difficult to discern or understand, are hostile towards Evanston not-for-profits that are willing to develop vacant properties and use them to support our community's children.  Your short-sighted vision is sending these kids to Northbrook and Glenview and Morton Grove and Niles to use their indoor sports facilities — or, at least the kids who can pay for it.  The rest of the kids are missing out on recreational opportunities and coaching that Evanston not-for-profits might be able to provide if the city council would fix its priorities.

  5. This is a ruse…

    This whole thing is a ruse – this property is not coming off the tax rolls. The ESA will be paying taxes as a component of their rent.  Obviously the alderman is under pressure from the developer who wants to build a similar facility in her ward so she is protecting her turf against the benefit of the greater good in this community, which is typical of Evanston politics.  

    This facility is functionally obsolete and no industrial company would even consider leasing it, which is why it has been sitting vacant and will continue to remain vacant if Alderman Rainey is successful.  Additionally, this location is too far East from the major expressways where the industrial businesses want to be located near. 

    The highest and best use for this property is for an indoor recreation facility that this community sorely needs.

    There is also more than enough need to support two of these facilities in Evanston – ask Evanston LaCrosse and EBSA if you dont believe me… 

  6. Evanston families with kids

    Evanston families with kids that play sports (instead of "hanging out") should move out. The City has proven -over the twenty five years that I have lived here- that they don't really care about youth sports, unless its basketball or baseball. Lets build another Taj Mahal bathroom on the lakeshore (big revenue generator!) and have our athletes travel to Skokie, Highland Park or Glenview to play sports. This is shameful!

  7. Who and when and how many fields?

    Is there a deal done?  It sounds like zoning has been put in place but that's it.

    Evanston fields are limited – both in quality and quantity.   Field space and practice facilities are in such short supply.  Soccer, LaCross and Baseball have all tried to create solutions that would allow families to keep their play in Evanston.  

    The city isn't putting down turf fields.   The city isn't converting the recyling center.   We have more than enough demand,   Why are we putting up roadblocks to citizen groups who are just trying to support Evanston youth?

    If there is indoor field space coming soon – I've yet to hear of the deal.   Does anyone know who is building the space and when the project is slated for completion?   Also – how many fields – and if it's a private venture, will the pricing be such that parents will end up driving out of town anyway?

    Does anyone know the gig?


  8. Dominicks could have seen some nice business

    That shopping center at Dodge and Dempster is having such a hard time.   Lots of vacant storefronts – request for the city to support it financially.   Too bad.

    Team Evanston's indoor facility – had it gone through – would have brought over 500 families right next door.  90 minutes for practice – and grocery shopping for the week.

    I know I would have shifted my shopping.

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