Howard hair salons get reprieve


Evanston's Plan Commission Wednesday rejected a plan to drive hair salons off Howard Street.

City staff, acting at the request of Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, had proposed new zoning rules that would have required the 11 hair salons and other personal care retail service businesses at the east end of Howard to win approval as special uses or go out of business within two years.

"I'm a lefty," Commissioner Seth Freeman said, "but this is American and there's such a thing as capitalism, and we should let the market decide what's a viable business."

"I'm not saying I disagree with having more diverse types of business, but I don't think we can legislate against businesses that are already in existance," Freeman added.

Commission Chair Scott Peters said he'd be willing to consider phasing out the existing businesses over a longer time period — perhaps five or ten years.

"I too am a capitalist, but I think amortization is reasonable. But this two-year period is shocking to the conscience, at least my conscience," Peters said.

Commissioners also criticized the staff for failing to notify any of the business owners of the proposed zoning change.

The staff sent notices to property owners within the Howard-Ridge tax increment financing district, as required by the zoning code. But since the shopkeepers are tenants in their buildings, they wouldn't have been notified.

While staff took the time to compile a list of all the nearly 60 businesses on the six-block strip, they didn't mail or stop by the 11 businesses that would be affected by the zoning change to let them know about it.

Asked if the city had ever before used an amortization period to try to drive a category of existing businesses out of a neighborhood, Dennis Marino, the city's planning and zoning division manager, said he couldn't think of any such instances.

Marino argued that the hair-care establishments have a "cumulative negative impact" on the neighborhood — because potential new tenants if they see a collection of existing businesses "that they don't think are compatible with their enterprise, then sometimes they don't go to those locations."

The commissioners asked staff to develop a new plan for the zoning overlay district.

A majority of commissioners appeared to be opposed to any amortization schedule that would force existing businesses to close.

In addition some commissioners had doubts about why hair care businesses and nail salons were being targeted.

"I think there's serious question about why these particular uses at his location should be singled out for special treatment," Peters said. "Maybe there's another way to accomplish the desired objective."

Top: The three hair and nail salons in this block of Howard would be among those affected by the proposed zoning overlay district (Google Street View image.).

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