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Bank branch plan clears hurdle

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Plans for a Chase Bank branch to replace a shuttered gas station in northwest Evanston moved a step forward this week after the ward's aldermen said that, despite complaints from some, most neighbors now favor the scaled-back plan.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, said the project, at the intersection of Gross Point Road and Crawford Avenue, has been under consideration for almost a year.

The developer has now agreed, Tendam said, to the demand of neighbors that the bank building and drive-thru be scaled back to occupy just the commercially-zoned corner lot that the former gas station sits on, rather than that lot plus two others on Crawford now zoned residential.

Tendam said that while "10 or 12 people" still turn out to oppose the project, "that's not a large group by 6th Ward standards."

"We have huge support for this in the Hillside neighborhood and huge support in the ward," Tendam said, "but the people in support tend not to come out" to City Council meetings.

He said the project has taken a huge amount of city staff time and the developer's time to revise, and that it was time for an up-or-down vote on whether the city was willing under any circumstances to allow a drive-thru on the corner lot.

A drawing showing the latest version of the bank proposal.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, objected that the proposal "smacks of spot zoning" and said it could set a bad precedent for other parts of the city, like Chicago Avenue "where commercial and residential uses butt up to one another"

But the City Council approved introduction of the zoning change on an 8-1 vote. It had been recommended by city staff and the city's Plan Commission.

Assuming the zoning change is given final approval at the council's Nov. 12 meeting, the project will then move to the Zoning Board of Appeals for consideration of whether a special use permit for the bank's planned drive-thru should be granted.

In the newest version of the plan, the now-vacant lot just northwest of the gas station site would be donated to the city by the developer and used for greenspace and a municipal parking lot. The bank would lease back the parking area for daytime use for employee parking.

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