Evanston aldermen Monday voted to deny the rezoning a developer sought to clear the way to construct 16 townhomes on an abandoned railroad right-of-way off Green Bay Road in the 5th Ward.

The parcel of land is designated under the overlay zoning imposed in 2009 to be mostly used for a new street connecting Wesley and Jackson avenues.

Following that plan the site would only be developable if an owner were also able to acquire and redevelop the adjoining Public Storage property to the north, which is not for sale.

Developer John Cleary of Evanston sought to have the overlay restriction removed to open the way for his project, which envisions 2,000-square-foot townhomes with attached garages priced at $500,000 to $550,000.

But Alderman Robin Rue Simmons, 5th Ward, said Cleary hasn’t provided enough detail about his plans and said he should go to the extra expense of preparing a planned development proposal for the project before seeking the zoning change.

Cleary has maintained that unless the Council was willing to agree to the zoning change, it would be a waste of time and money for him to prepare the more detailed plans.

If the zoning change were approved it could open the way for other types of development of the parcel, including three-story apartment buildings.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that if the project were in her ward she wouldn’t want to lose the opportunity to have the new townhomes developed.

But Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, said neighbors, a number of whom have voiced opposition to the project, should be able to count on the existing zoning that was adopted after a neighborhood planning process.

“It’s perfectly reasonable to have a greater understanding of what’s to be built there before approving any change,” she said.

The Plan Commission had voted 4-2 to recommend denial of the zoning change, and the aldermen voted 6-3 to adopt that recommendation. Rainey, was joined on the losing side of the vote by Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Alderman Cicely Fleming, 9th Ward.

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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