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Big stick cut from green plan

A deposit requirement that business groups said could kill development in Evanston was pulled from the city’s proposed green building ordinance at a committee meeting Wednesday night.


A deposit requirement that business groups said could kill development in Evanston was pulled from the city’s proposed green building ordinance at a committee meeting Wednesday night.

The deposit, which would have started at 5 percent of the construction project’s value, “is a non-starter for our organization,” Jonathan Perman, executive director of the Evanston Chamber of Commerce, said.

A developer would have lost the deposit if the building ultimately failed to achieve green building certification.

“Why start with a punitive measure requiring a security deposit?” Perman asked. “Most green ordinances in the country offer financial incentives, technical assistance and training.”

“Let’s try it that way first, and if we find it fails, that people are not complying, then we could start to have a conversation about stronger enforcement measures,” he added.

Len Sciarra, the former chair of the city’s Environment Board, who was instrumental in drafting the ordinance, said, “I’m all for incentives. But I just don’t know what the city wants to give away.”

Members of the group, composed of business leaders, environmental activists and city staff, agreed to look into possible incentive options, ranging from zoning allowances to tax credits. But it was unclear what, if any, incentives they might eventually agree upon, given the city’s financial constraints and worries among some residents about over-development.

One option that seemed to have wide appeal was trying to find grant funding to set up a city program to provide technical assistance to businesses considering small-scale renovation projects to encourage them to incorporate energy-saving measures.

Committee members also agreed to consider developing a penalty provision for the ordinance that could impose financial costs on projects that failed to meet green-building standards, but would not require the up-front deposit.

The committee also agreed to revise language in the ordinance to make it clear that only renovation projects that involved changes to more than 10,000 square feet of a building would be affected by the ordinance. Language in the current draft made it appear that any renovation project at a building larger than 10,000 square feet would be covered.

The committee, chaired by Assistant City Manager Marty Lyons, agreed to meet again at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, July 28, and members said they hoped to have a revised ordinance ready to present to City Council at its first meeting in September.

The committee was formed last month after aldermen said they weren’t prepared to adopt the draft ordinance, given the strong opposition to some provisions from the chamber and other business interests.

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