Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 8:20 p.m.

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

Possibly a record turnout for a City Council meeting tonight — with both the council chambers and the anteroom outside full — and about 75 people watching on television sets set up in two overflow rooms down the hall.

The hot item on the agenda tonight is the proposal to sell the city-owned Harley Clarke mansion for possible redevelopment as a boutique hotel.

Meeting called to order at 8:26 p.m.

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl says regarding Harley Clarke, “blame me if you are concerned about a proposal being before us. His proposal, she says, was not what she’d anticipated. Says she doesn’t think the city should sell public land. But the colonel was responding to what his mayor asked him to do, so I thank him for that.”

Says she loves the yard signs and people for showing up.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says it’s important to have ideas — with that said, this particular proposal is not what he was looking for. Says the park is important to him and his family, but question for him is preserving a community asset. So his motion is — with thanks for the proposal — to decline the proposal submitted by Pritzker’s Tawani Enterprises.

Braithwaite seconds.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, says thinks should consider adaptive reuse of the mansion — it has mold, lead-based paint, asbestos, and other problems, including a roof that would cost more to repair than what it cost to repair the one on the Civic Center — well over $1 million. Needs all new windows as well. Do want city to spend $10 million for this?

She adds…

The proposal never talked about getting rid of access to the beach — those were misrepresentations by many in the community — they know it was false.

Sad that someone who we asked to come forward has been demonized by the community. Wanted to do something nice and restore a building historically.

The city cannot afford to do spend on this. Don’t we have a huge crime problem? And a youth problem with jobs? 

Says need to consider the whole city and not get caught up in anger and fury about one building. The building is a liability, and not an asset.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, says was misundestanding about the proposal — not actually any plan to sell off the beach.

Says have generated a lot of heat here but not a lot of light. Says regret that didn’t have a larger public meeting back when the proposal first came out.

Says disturbed by personal comments about city council and Tawani and Col. Pritzker.

Hard to see the good nuggets of information when they’re so clouded by personal inveective and insult.

Says it’s a stunning proposal — both in size and conception — without deciding whether should approve it.

Says heard some constructive proposals for adaptive reuse and finding alternative solutions.

Says agree that we should politely decline this proposal –out of scale for the site — but should think about what might be salvaged from it.

How aobut a protected venue for weddings, a restaurant, a place where we could rent beach umbrellas.

Says don’t think answer is to position selves at extremes — should have longer community conversation — build something and create something there that more of us can use.

Wilson says wants to echo Grover’s comments. Vast majority of correspondence he had was quite constructive. Most were very respectful.

Says should follow through and get more ideas on the table in a public process. Have amazing talent and resources in the city should be able to come up with something outstanding for the property.

Alderman Judy Fiske 1st Ward, says turnout tonight an amazing show of support for the parkland. Says what happens to the parkland happens to the house.

Says 40 years ago the City Council decide to try to get more parkland — bought Civic Center… and bought the mansion. Says the mansion has always been a bit of a problem — says now are turning buildings around.. civic center is an example of that.

Says council needs to look at policy of not disclosing responses to requests for proposals. Think a lot of this — if had more information — would have helped up the dialogue a little bit more.

Think have to look at parcel int tems of zoning. Says very little can do when its zoned OS. Can’t think in big terms unless change zoning ordinance- – but that would open up a big box of unknowns.

Says lakefront master plan went throught two-year process — adopted in 2008 — would allow lots of things people have been talking about.

Wynne says thanks for comments. She says if choice is commercializing the building she would rather disasemble it .. hold onto particular artifiacts …have them create an evocation of the building and what it once was and sell the valuable items for salvage. For me  the choice of a restaurant or event space — just go around the back of any restaurant you’ve ever been to–you have to have the back.

I think we need to consider that — wil lbe difficult to find the approriate dollars to restore the builing — finding an appropriate use is the key issue — open space is not commercial space.

Tendam says he agrees with Wynne’s commetns — except that doesn’t believe there’s any need to tear the building down.

Says we have Noyes and Chandler and Crown … all those take ppriority over investment in Harley Clarke. Says city has not been good landlords. Having said that, hopes will be solution found.

Wilson motion to decline the Tawani propoosal

Vote is 6-3 Rainey, Burrus and Holmes vote no.

Wilson makes another motion to direct city manager to look for alternate use of the building that does not involve the sale of parkland.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says are health and safety issues with the building would like to get an update on that.

Fiske says uncomfortable going this far. Need to stay in close contact with people to stay part of the process.

Burrus suggests that it was a public vote in the past to go out for the RFP regarding the mansion.

Grover suggests holding a series of public brainstorming sessions on what to do about the mansion.

That passes unanimously.

Downtown performing arts building

Tendam reports he’s taught to numerous organizations over the past two weeks since he suggested that instead of the Piven proposal for Noyes.

Says don’t have specifics yet, but everyone is thinking of developing something very special in downtown Evanston.

Says more news forthcoming, but not tonight.

Related story and another related story.

Citizen Comment

Mayor announces that have more than 60 speakers signed up. With 45 minutes scheduled for citizen comment. So have 45 seconds per speaker — unless people choose not to speak.

Fiske suggests giving everybody 60 seconds, in hopes people will agree to yield their time

Speakers have extreme difficulty limiting themselves to 60 seconds.

One speaker suggests using the mansion as a home for NU’s president.

Another suggests better effort to inform populace. 

Another speakers references situation in Wilmette that rejected sale of public land there that had been proposed for sale.

Jerry Woods, 814 Judson, says has been lot of miscommunicaiton in the past, but not that the council has listened to the will of the people he sees nothing but good coming out of this.

Junad Rizki says claims of needed repairs for the mansion are greatly exaggerated.

Guy who lives next to NU president Schapiro says he doubts the president wants to move. Su9ggests better to tear the mansion down than sell it off to commercial interests.

Bennett  Johnson, 708 Washington, says transparency issue paramount.

Jeff Smith says the best approach would have been to find out what citizens wanted first.

Carl Bova suggests having an open house at the mansion. Says he attended an event at The Grove in Glenview yesterday and the rental fee was $6K. Says could generate $2 million a year from events at the Harley Clarke mansion.

Township Audit

Related story

Consultant says there is not duplication of services between the township and the city. But says found some opportunities to improve provision of services.

Says there are state agencies and non profits that provide overlapping services to what the township does. State job service has office in the Evanston Public Library that provides job training — a service that the township provides. Also are two non-profits working on that.

Says about 700 taxpayers take advantage of the property tax advisory service — but there’s no marketing of it via a website or otherwise.

Says in terms of services provided, township is doing it well.

Rainey says doesn’t think have had this many clients in a very long time — knows the economy hasn’t been so good — but it hasn’t been good for a long time. Asks about benefit levels. Says has never seen a report on where clients are working or how much they’re working.

Holmes says Human Services Committee does get numbers on those kinds of questions.

Braithwaite says he too is looking for more information on how effective township is in delivering services.

(No action taken on the report)

Consent agenda

Taken off consent agenda

  • Bike plan contract … at request of Alderman Wilson.
  • Grandmother’s Park … at request of Alderman Burrus.
  • North Shore Residence … off consent agenda.
  • Piven agreement for Noyes … off consent agenda.

Consent agenda approved.

Bike plan contract with T.Y. Lin for $120K. Wilson says expects really incredible report for that much money and should contain “do-able” recommendations as opposed to ones received recently that were completely unrealistic. No “gold-plated bike lanes.”

City manager says would be happy to have the consultant come back to committee for review of scope of work. Says he understands what Wilson is looking for.

Approved 9-0.

Grandmother Park project. Burrus objects (as did at A&PW) to including public funds in the project. Braithwaite says wants to congratulate the organizers of the Grandmother Park project and city staff for helping get to this point. Says over 300 donors raised over $93K.

Approved 8-1. Burrus votes no.

Resident only parking district for Howard/Custer neighborhood. Suspend rules to give immediate effect. Approved 9-0.

North Shore Residence planned development and special use 1611-1629 Chicago Avenue (no affordable housing requirement). Alderman Holmes says she favors the 10% affordable housing requirement. Mayor says residents were very concerned about increase in fees, being unable to live there. Says knows management is trying to avoid that. Says rumor is 10 people have moved. Says there’s lot of concern and that traditionally this has been one of our places for low income senior citizens.

Grover says has asked for inventory of affordable housing. Rainey says if require 10% subsidy, then price for everybody else will go up — and doesn’t think there are any rich people at the North Shore now.

Approved 8-1. Holmes votes no.

Piven Theater at Noyes Tendam moves to table. Says want to procede toward a downtown theater building solution instead. Approved on voice vote.

Piven lease City manager proposes recrafting that as a one-year lease. Given all time Piven has put into the larger proposal, he says, should be some credit for that on the fee.

Meeting adjourned at 10:41 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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