Given this week’s weather it may be hard to believe we’ll ever need air conditioning again — but city officials are considering loosening restrictions on where Evanston residents can place exterior air conditioning units around their homes.

The changes, to be considered at Wednesday’s Plan Commission meeting, would reduce from 10 feet to 8 feet the distance that air conditioner compressors must be located from most  property lines.

The would cut the distance still further — to 6 feet for interior side yards and four feet for street side yards — when the units are located within two feet of the home and appropriately screened.

Zoning officials say the current 10-foot rule creates practical difficulties for many homeonwers in Evanston since lots in the city tend to be narrow.

The city staff and the Zoning Board of Appeals has ended up receiving a lot of requests for variances, and has ended up granting most of them.

A staff memo says newer air conditioners tend to be somewhat quieter than older models and the city recently amended its mechanical code to increase the maximum noise level permitted at property lines — because the old limit was actually below typical ambient noise levels — making it extremely difficult to measure and enforce.

Update 1/10/14 6:20 a.m.: After some discussion Wednesday night the Plan Commission voted to approve the changes recommended by staff. Only Commissioner Seth Freeman voted to keep the existing rules.

The proposed changes now go to the City Council for final action.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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  1. AC condensers

    The ordinance should not only consider distance from the propety line, but also from the neighboring dwelling.  My house is 6 feet from the property line but at least 50 feet from my neighbors'  house.  

  2. Air conditioner restrictions

    If the neighboring house is close to the lotline, 6 feet is too close.  We had a continuing problem with mildew accumulating on our painted siding  adjacent to our neighbor's airconditioner, not to speak of the noise of the fan constantly turning off and on.  (This improved when the air-conditioner was moved farther from the lot line and was screened)  It would be better to continue with current requirements.  That would allow for notice and give neighbors an opportunity to voice concerns when the person installing the air conditioner applies for a variance.  

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