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Recap: Planning and Development Committee

Here's a recap of our live coverage of this evening's Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee. The committee discussed amendments to the city's inclusionary housing ordinance.

A packet with information on tonight's agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 6:59 p.m.

Minutes approved.

P1 – Amendments to Design and Project Review Ordinance. Approved.

P2 – Zoning ordinance text amendment for firearm ranges.

Deputy City Attorney Michele Masoncup says statutes and case law indicate that city has to adopt regulations that permit firearm ranges somewhere in the city. Proposed ordinance imposes a variety of restrictions.

Special use approval would be required for any such use.

Approved.

P3 – Inclusionary housing ordinance amendments

Staff presentation online here.

Community Development Director Mark Muenzer says staff is seeking direction from aldermen tonight — not seeking to have the ordinance approved.

Says a lot of questions from the aldermen brought to light a variety of new information.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, says item is marked on agenda for action tonight … but its actually up for continuing discussion

Citizen Comment

Jennifer O'Neill, League of Women Voters, says the league strongly supports inclusionary housing. Understands won't solve the affordable housing crisis but says it's a valuable tool. Favors the developer incentives. Wants audits of performance and review of results every five years.

Brendan Saunders, of Open Communities in Winnetka, seconds what O'Neill said.

Rob Anthony, executive director Community Partners for Affordable Housing in Evanston, says has administered inclusionary housing. Says important that as ordinance is implemented need to educate developers. Says real financial impact can be very minimal.

Steve Perkins, on board of Citizens Greener Evanston, says city is moving to be more walkable, compact city — says that makes it more affordable. Says affordable housing near transit here has gone down — amounts to another tax on people of limited means. Need to think together about housing and transit affordability and accessibility.

Howard Handler, North Shore Barrington Association of Realtors, says need more time to assess the impact of the proposed ordinance on stakeholders. Suggests more organic approaches to affordable housing — like micro housing units, coach houses — accessory units or granny flats. Also look at other factors that increase the cost of housing in Evanston.

Elizabeth Meadows, member of Interfaith Action of Evanston, favors the amendments to the ordinance. Says not the solution, but a big step in the right direction. Says should have meetings with stakeholders and draft an Evanston-specific ordinance.

Jane Wickencamp, senior citizen, favors ordinance as a strong first step.

Sue Carlson says developers would get additional return under the proposed ordinance and wouldn't have to reduce profit by a substantial amount.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says there is money in the affordable housing fund. E2 developer made $200K voluntary contribution to the affordable housing fund. So did the Mather.

Muenzer says a lot of money has been raised from demolition fees and other contributions from developers.

(No units were produced as a result of mandatory fees under the existing ordinance — because it was adopted just as the condo market crashed and no new condo developments that would be covered have been proposed since then.)

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, thanks staff for all the info provided. Demonstrates what a complex issue we're facing, she says.

Says think need to do somthing — but do something right — that it works.

Says many forces over the last nine years resulted in the loss of affordable housing — the recession, wage stagnation. We can't necessarily solve those issues, she says.

Says she has a number of questions. Thinks should have a workshop so can address them more deeply.. with one or two meetings devoted solely to the issue.

Need to get major developers and finance people at the table talking through these things.

Need to look more closely at development bonuses and the issues they raise.

Alderman Grover says need to keep it on the front burner — suggests LWV could help facilitate a workshop.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says she's concerned about the League organizing the workshop.

Fiske says most of the new single family units have coach houses.

Muenzer says they're only allowed for occupany by family members

Fiske says need to redevelop smaller single family homes.

Says is concerned about some of the bonuses.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says he's looking for more data on where and why affordable housing has been lost. Says redevelopment of the empty lot at Davis and Maple isn't tanking away any housing.

Concerned about the "inclusionary housig" name — its a little bit of a misnomer.

Says Highland Park has only created 24 units over 14 years — that's not very useful.

Says Portland, Oregon, has a serious problem that we don't have — gentrification tearing down a lot of existing housing.

Says 606 development in Chicago is making a lot of housing in that area not affordable.

Says need to reset the thinking, look at why and where we're losing housing. Vision, he says, to have quality affordable market price housing — see how can modify zoning ordinance to accomplish that.

Says bonuses will be impactful on neighbors. — if allow more density, less parking — that impacts the neighobrs of that development — amounts to a targeted tax on those people.

Says have to look at how to create a better environment for everybody in Evanston. Supports Wynne's proposal for workshop

Grover says need to look at where we want affordable housing — hopefully everywhere in Evanston — and especially near transit.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, says need to keep discussion on a tight schedule.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, suggests a workshop in July. Have kicked the can down the road long enough.

Muenzer says tentatively could do workshop Monday, June 29. 

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Discussion item on lighting regulations

Muenzer says city has administrative policy that covers the issue.

Fiske says request came from citizen complaints … make light more efficient.

Rainey asks whether city's parking lots are in compliance. Says need to check on it right away. Asks whether will be citations issued for violations.

Grover says lot 4 … Central and Stewart … says new fixtures had to have filters added to reduce light overflow.

Meeting adjourned at 8 p.m.

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