Here’s a recap of our live coverage of Monday evening’s Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting.

The meeting is now scheduled to start at 6 p.m. (delayed from its originally scheduled 5:30 p.m. start because the Administration and Pubic Works Committee meeting went into overtime).

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

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) chairs. Members Nieuwsma, Revelle, Reid and Geracaris are present. Members Kelly and Wynne are absent.

Public Comment

Pat Fowler, owner of Firehouse Grill, speaks in favor of allowing billboards — wants to add one facing the “L” tracks behind his building.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) speaks in favor of billboards — saying it would provide income to the city and local businesses. Says billboards “aren’t necessarily that offensive.”

Items for consideration

P1 – Removing substitute references to the Land Use Commission for references to the (now abolished) to the Plan Commission and Zoning Board of Appeals

Approved 5-0

P2 – Eliminating the Design and Project Review Committee

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) says ordinance appears to have the committee still meet informally and take votes.

Community Development Director Johanna Nyden says right now when vote formally there’s a sense “DAPR has voted this down.” But that’s not how it actually works. Says often plans are refined at a later meeting and then the project moves forward. Says just trying to build some consensus among staff and provide finer-grained advice.

Nieuwsma says would still have proposals go through staff review before they get to the Land Use Commission.

Nyden says providing more background would be helpful for everybody.

Meeting suspended at 6:15 p.m. because of tornado warning. Meeting resumes at 7:10 p.m.

Ald. Nieuwsma asks about whether the change would reduce transparency.

Nyden says could be more information included in the weekly city manager’s report.

Says could also provide comments through the 311 system. Says 2 p.m. on Tuesday isn’t a great time for residents anyway.

Says people can also provide feedback at ward meetings or at the Land Use Commission.

Says people think the DAPR meeting can “stop the process” — but actually DAPR isn’t in the position to stop any project.

Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) says she finds the DAPR minutes very helpful. Asks whether would still provide some report like that. Nyden says yes.

Revelle says the change would create a more efficient process and still have all the staff provide their input.

Reid says he doesn’t think DAPR should vote — but explain why a proposal is or isn’t in compliance with the city code.

Says he thinks there is a benefit to having DAPR be a public meeting.

Burns says often community members say they aren’t aware of a project until its much further along in the process.

Says DAPR provides an opportunity to listen in and learn about projects.

It’s a good “on ramp” for staff and developers and community residents. Says do need to record it — and have it placed online.

Nyden says could have “open houses” for developers and residents to get more information out about projects and provide opportunities for feedback.

Measure approved for introduction 5-0, with understanding that staff may provide some revisions before the measure is up for final adoption at City Council on June 27.

P3 – Making billboards a special use

Revelle asks about the Firehouse Grill request for a sign facing the “L” tracks.

She says the code definition of billboards applies to signs that are NOT on the property involved.

Fowler, the Firehouse Grill owner, says he wants to generate revenue by advertising other businesses.

Burns says he’d be OK with billboard that just faced the railroad tracks.

Reid says “we don’t need to add any more billboards in the city.”

Nyden says there are only a handful of billboards in the city — don’t generate significant revenue — compared to the staff time involved in policing them.

Nieuwsma says he doesn’t want more billboards on the street, but he’s comfortable having billboards visible from the “L” and the Metra tracks.

Ald. Geracaris says he’s OK with having billboards be a special use — that would require approval by the City Council

Ald. Suffredin says the city now doesn’t have any framework for allowing billboards. Doesn’t know what revenue for billboards could be on private property — but interested in what city could make if billboards were placed on city property. Envisions digital billboards that could also include public service announcements for the city.

Reid proposes sending the proposal back to the Land Use Commission.

That motion is adopted 4-1. Geracaris votes no.

Items for discussion

D1 – Rental registration and licensing

Nyden says wants to add staffing to 2023 budget and other outreach measures that need to implement changes.

Reid suggests letting the Housing subcommittee to move on to other issues.

Revelle says she’s reluctant to create another subcommittee. Says need to have new database software for the 2023 budget and need two or three more inspectors plus a support staff person to help run the program.

Burns suggests either having a special meeting, or refer it to a new subcommittee that would meet twice. Says need more time to discuss the issue.

Housing and Grants Manager Sarah Flax says on the inclusionary housing ordinance a town hall-like meeting was held which led to presentation of an ordinance draft to the Planning and Development Committee. Says need to engage the landlords and get them on board.

Burns says don’t need a town hall — just a couple committee meetings.

Burns proposes a working group with him and Reid and members of the public, landlords and subject member experts.

Corporation Counsel Nicholas Cummings says if there are three or more council members present then it would be subject the Open Meetings Act.

Nyden suggests recording the “working group” meeting, putting it on the website (so Ald. Revelle and other council members who might be interested can find out what was discussed without being present at the meeting).

Approved 5-0.

Items for communication

C1 – Referral regarding anti-displacement/gentrification efforts.

Held to be a discussion item at the next committee meeting.

Meeting adjourned at 8:06 p.m.

City Council to start at 8:10 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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