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

The meeting is scheduled to start at 6:02 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 6:08 p.m. Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) chairs.

Minutes

Approved as amended

P1 – Amendments to building regulations and zoning code

Approved.

P2 – Adding billboards to city code as a special use

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) notes that the Land Use Commission has recommended rejection of this proposal.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) says would support business and generate revenue. Says it doesn’t open the door wide. Suggests might put them along the railroad tracks at the city service center … or on city parking garages.

Nieuwsma notes that each billboard would require City Council approval.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) says he believes could be done in a limited fashion.

Says doesn’t think Land Use Commission took a fair look at the issue.

Suggests limiting billboards to certain commercial or business zoning districts.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) says she agrees with the Land Use Commission. Says her ward and the 5th Ward are the only places that have billboards. Says they’re along the tracks — but face the street.

Says there are no billboards north of the 5th Ward.

Says city has a strong sign ordinance — don’t have a lot of sign pollution. Says billboards are a form of sign pollution.

Community Development Director Johanna Nyden says the city would not have control over the messages on a billboard — only the structure itself.

Dirk Price, interim corporation counsel, says the city can’t control the content of a private billboard, even if it’s on city property.

Ald. Juan Geracaris (9th) says he personally doesn’t like billboards, but thinks they should be an option for council to consider.

Nieuwsma says he could support billboard if there were specific restrictions on zones they could be located in.

Wynne says on I-90 and I-94 there are “Right to Life” billboards and billboards for “Gentlemen’s Clubs” … as well as lots of billboards for personal injury lawyers. Says there’s no question that that is visual pollution.

Says the revenue from this would be relatively minor. Doesn’t want to be part of that.

Reid moves to table the ordinance to the second meeting in September.

Nieuwsma seconds.

Wynne says she’s OK with a business owner putting up a sign that advertises their own business. But doesn’t want signs that are leased out to third parties.

Matt Rodgers, chair of the Land Use Commission, says the commission has been pretty adamant about the issue. Says the comprehensive general plan says billboards should be eliminated — so it the standards are applied, a billboard couldn’t get a positive recommendation from the LUC.

Rodgers says individual business owner is unlikely to be able to generate significant revenue managing a billboard itself. Adds that there is little revenue to be generated if the billboard only faces the railroad tracks — because it would reach only a relatively small audience.

Motion to table is approved unanimously.

P3 – Reducing off-street parking for 1571 Maple

Developer Michael McLean says the project is transit-oriented and has been paying for a lease for garage parking spaces with the city — even though hardly any tenants of the building use the garage parking.

Proposal is to shift shift the space required to the Sherman Avenue garage rather than the Maple Avenue garage — and only require the developer to pay for the number of spaces used, but make up to 55 spaces available if needed.

Burns says the parking garages are not currently at capacity — more than 1,000 spaces are available at the Sherman Avenue garage alone.

Approved.

P4 – Central Street / Crawford and Gross Point.

Ald. Tom Suffredin (6th) says that although he initially proposed some changes in this area he now agrees that this proposal should be rejected.

Vote is unanimous to accept the Land Use Commission’s recommendation that the zoning change be denied.

Meeting adjourned at 7:20 p.m.

City Council meeting to start at 7:30 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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