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Council deadlocks on moratorium

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.

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