Evanston aldermen Monday voted to extend a moratorium on issuing building permits downtown for just two days, after supporters of a three-month extension failed to find the five votes needed to approve it.

The mini-extension stretches the construction ban one day beyond the next City Council meeting Dec. 10 and will give Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, who was absent from Monday’s meeting, a chance to vote on the longer extension.

Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, “There’s not going to be a rush to construction” if the current, six-month moratorium is allowed to expire.

He said that only projects that could be built as-of-right, a rare situation downtown, would be able to proceed immediately, and that any major projects would have to get in line for the city’s approval process, behind the proposed new downtown plan.

The moratorium was originally implemented to give officials time to develop that plan, which will get another hearing before the Plan Commission at 7 p.m. this evening.

But Alderman Edmund Moran, 6th Ward, said that with the usual slowdown in governmental activity around the holidays, it’s unlikely the downtown plan can be finished in less than the 95 days proposed by staff for the moratorium extension.

“I think a large portion of the citizenry has placed significance on this moratorium,” Moran said. “Should the moratorium be allowed to lapse, they don’t know what will happen.”

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, who proposed the initial downtown moratorium, said a 95-day extension was too long. “I’m not trying to cut off citizen input, but there has to come a time when the Plan Commission has to take action and move ahead.”

Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, said she favored the three-month extension “to give all the opportunity to say whatever they have to say about the downtown plan.”

Also voting against the 95-day extension were Aldermen Cheryl Wollin, 1st Ward, and Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. Also voting for it were Aldermen Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, and Elizabeth Tisdahl, 7th Ward.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Council Deadlocked?
    Bill,

    I am not sure that your story of last night’s debacle is accurate enough. Missing is the description of the complete incompetence on display by our elected officials and the City’s legal counsel.

    Citizens of Evanston should be embarrassed by the lack of orientation displayed by our mayor, who was not certain what the moratorium was about and asked (innocently) why it was established. Which conveniently allowed for Alderman Holmes to explain (again with pure innocence) why indeed the moratorium exempted certain properties from the moratorium in downtown. Oh, yes, it was the mythical “pipeline”, that does not exist.

    How interesting to listen to Jim Wolinski try to explain to the mayor, why the city council voted for a moratorium exempting some properties in the downtown on June 11, 2007.

    You forgot to mention that the council voted to suspend the rules so that the mayor could vote in a tie-breaking vote upon the advice of the city’s legal counsel. While the tie-breaking vote did not occur – it certainly was a spectacle. Moreover, Alderman Bernstein then attempted to reconsider his vote and was unable to do so according to the council rules.

    From the June 11 minutes of the City Council, Pg 9: “Ordinance 57-O-07 – Moratorium on New Building Construction in the Downtown Area for 180 Days – Consideration of a request from Alderman Holmes, introduced May 29, 2007, to impose a moratorium on new construction in the downtown area for 180 days, expiring November 25, 2007.”

    It appears that the moratorium has already expired, and that the extension until the day after the next council meeting works just fine.

    From page 3: “First Assistant Corporation Counsel Herb Hill stated that the first question to look at is about a pipeline. There is no such thing as a pipeline. It is not a defined term in the court cases.”

    On page 10: “Alderman Hansen clarified Section 4a would remain. They could have a PUD, but had not gotten a perfected building application then they would be encompassed within this moratorium. Mr. Hill said there were no properties that met that definition. Mr. Wolinski said there are none downtown. If they go through the planned development process, which the two towers and 1515 Chicago Avenue would have to do, that takes three to four months. If one or all of them were approved, construction drawings are prepared for several months after that, so around the end of the year they could get a perfected building permit application with everything required. Alderman Hansen favored the amendment.”

    Due to the diligence of Bob Atkins, a citizen and attorney who sought release of the minutes from the State’s Attorneys office because the meeting was held in violation of Illinois law, I was able to glean from the Executive Session minutes of the Evanston city council, March 27, 2007 on page 3:

    “Timeline for project: The increment must be carefully timed because of the life of the TIF. They would go in May for a Planned Development application; have hearings over the summer and come back to Council in the fall. Then go to construction documents and construction; have retail occupancy in the first quarter of 2010….TIF increment is dependent on the private development schedule.”

    On page 6: Alderman Moran: “He urged council to go with this or some variant. He would like council to signal to the developers that evening that council likes these elements; must have a public process, and encourage them to go forward.”

    And there you have it. Klutznick and Anderson got the nod they needed when they met with council in executive session back in March, they have proceeded with the PUD process and were exempted from the moratorium in June, and as we approach the year’s end, the process is closing in on synchronizing with the downtown plan. Poof! We have a moratorium and a 49-story building. I must borrow from Vito here – deviousness or incompetence – your choice.

    Any bets on how the next vote on the moratorium extension will go?

    Mimi Peterson

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