Here’s a recap of our live coverage of Monday evening’s meeting of the Evanston City Council Administration and Public Works Committee.

The meeting is scheduled to begin at 5 p.m.

A packet with information on the agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 5:06 p.m.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) chairs. Also present Ald. Krissie Harris (2nd), Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th). Members absent: Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) and Ald. Devon Reid (8th).

Public Comment

Audrey Niffenegger, of Artists Book House, says the group is in the process of hiring an executive director. Says has made three different efforts with the Jens Jensen Garden group to come up with a sublease and now is working with a different group to try to arrange a sublease for the garden.

Charles Smith, of the Jens Jenson Garden group, says the proposed lease was changed to a license and from a license to a non-exclusive lease — that ended that process, he says. Says there’s animosity. Says the garden group wants to create a public park for Evanston and should have a lease to proceed with that.

Bill Brown, vice president of the Jens Jensen group, argues for giving separate lease to the garden group. Says it has raised nearly $200K.

Ben Blount, member of Artists Book House board, says the his group is not trying to kick out the gardens group.

About two dozen speakers in all.

Public Comment ends at 5:55 p.m.

(By this point Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) and Ald. Devon Reid (8th) have both arrived.)

Consent agenda

Items removed: A1, A4, A11.

With those deletions, consent agenda approved.

A1 – Bills list


A4 – Contract to demo city-owned buildings at Emerson and Jackson


A11 – Change order #4 for 30-inch transmission main project


Items for consideration

A12 – Purchase of 729-39 Howard. Plus 4 liquor license items, A13-A16, plus A17 – Water supply loan are all approved with one motion.

Items for discussion

D2 – Lease amendment for Harley Clarke mansion

Reid says he favors having two leases — one for the mansion, the other for the gardens.

Nieuwsma says both groups have done really good work. Also favors splitting the lease.

Says from city’s perspective to manage one lessor, but given the practical reality and the relationships, best to split into two leases. Suggests finding mediator to resolve the physical boundaries for the leases.

Kelly agrees with Reid and Nieuwsma. Says success of each is integral to the success of both groups.

Harris says she’s very impressed by both parties as well. Says Evanston is looking forward to the parties working together to separate the leases. Says is clear they need a mediator.

Nieuwsma says its a long term lease — and need to have both groups have strong organizational infrastructure — so the entities will continue to thrive well into the future.

Reid moves to have mediation to come up with two leases. Nieuwsma seconds.

Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings says the city is in a current lease with Artists Book House. Says have tried to start negotiating but have not been successful — would have to terminate the lease.

Cummings says has spent since at least since October to try to amend the lease. Wasn’t able to reach agreement

Says need to conduct a survey to split the two parcels so can have a legal description for the two leases. City would have to bear that expense, he says.

Only alternative is if the parties agree on new terms.

Cummings say Artists Book House is technically in breach of the lease because it hasn’t reached its fundraising targets.

Reid revises his motion to have the city pay for mediation to develop boundaries for the two groups with separate leases.

(It’s now 6:56 p.m.) After much more discussion, Harris says it sounds like “we’re trying to split the baby.”

“If we’re going to just hold the baby then nobody’s going to wins,” she adds.

Reid says maybe the groups need some sort of “good neighbor agreement.”

Nieuwsma says ask the mediator to work with the two parties to come up with a boundaries that gives Jens Jensen the grounds and the coach house. Burns says need to provide the terrace for the Book House.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says Nieuwsma’s motion is very one sided. Mediator should be instructed to reach an agreement between the parties.

Reid says city should have been neutral — let it all go to the mediator.

Kelly pushes for a stronger position for the gardens group.

Burns says the key job for the mediator is to figure out what happens east of the mansion.

Harris moves to call the question. Reid seconds.

Nieuwsma withdraws his motion.

Nieuwsma then makes new motion to just send the whole thing to a mediator to work with the two parties to come up with boundaries for two leases. Harris seconds. Reid proposes Feb. 13 deadline for the mediation. If not done by then comes back to council for a decision. Nieuwsma accepts that amendment.

Approved 4-1 with Kelly voting no.

Kelly moves that will of the committee is to grant the gardens group a lease for the garden, the coach house and grotto.

Burns says he’s OK with that because grotto wasn’t part of the lease to the Book House.

Approved 4-1 with Harris voting no. Burns says he only supported the grotto and coach house — he doesn’t want to include ALL of the garden (which might be understood to include the patio east of the mansion.

D1- Amending electric vehicle charging payment structure

Deferred until next meeting.

Meeting adjourned at 7:32 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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