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

The meeting is scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 5:26 p.m.

Chair Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th), Also present Alds. Wynne, Nieuwsma, Burns, Reid present.

P2 – Discussion of bus shelter program
Jessica Hyink, transportation and mobility coordinator, says agreement with Creative Outdoor Advertising provides for maintenance of eight shelters (7 on CTA, 1 on Pace).
Not interested in expanding the program because they’re not generating sufficient ad revenue. Contract expires next April. Shelters are not ADA compliant because of the bench.
Other shelters in town are generally dated and only some are ADA compliant — people using wheelchairs can’t get into the shelters.

Says Pace has a shelter program — says would be no cost to the city and pace would pay for maintenance including snow removal. (Limited potential for ad revenue, because pandemic has reduced ad revenue generally.

Says Pace won’t install shelters at CTA-only stops. CTA doesn’t have a bus shelter program. City could purchase Pace-designs shelters for CTA-only stops. May be grant funding for that.

Recommends that city reach an intergovernmental agreement with Pace for shelter installation and maintenance and issue sole source request or an RFP for maintenance of shelters at CTA-only stops.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) says wants to go forward with staff recommendations. Getting uniformity in bus stops and community input on best locations. Likes idea of contracting with the same maintenance contractor Pace uses.

Johanna Nyden, community development director, says would create issues to have different contractors doing maintenance.

Hyink says ridership has declined in Evanston during the pandemic, but not as much as in other parts of Pace service area, so Pace has maintained service levels here while having cutbacks elsewhere.

Hyink says typically shelters cost around $5K each, often including maintenance. But if there are grade issues to address that can increase costs.

Revelle says committee supports city entering into an agreement with Pace for shelters and for CTA only bus stops need to identify a funding source.

Approved to accept and place the report on file.

P1 – Proposed lakefront public access cut-off
Revelle recuses herself because she’s a lakefront property owner.
Wynne takes over as chair
Public Comment
Joan Cherry says its described as a fee but amounts to an additional property tax on the 42 lakefront private properties. Says municipalities don’t have the power to raise assessments. Says is likely an unconstitutional tax.
Says lakefront is generally accessible. Lakefront property owners already pay enormously high property taxes.
Says unjust because it only applies to property owners on one side of a street.
Says really vigorously opposed to anything that looks like an additional property tax or fee.
Hopes Council won’t even do a study of the proposal.

No other public comment speakers

Reid says he planned on inviting a speaker to discuss the proposal, that he initiated, but not here tonight.

Plays video regarding the public access cutoff fee proposal.

Reid says research demonstrates that cutting off access to public lakefront has a negative impact on the surrounding community (beyond the shoreline itself). Wants RFP to look at what the lost revenue is to the city because of properties that cut off access to the lakefront.

Nieuwsma says he appreciated the progressive sentiment behind the idea. Says no secret that people who can afford to live on the lakefront have extra wealth and it would be nice to spread that wealth around.
But says there is ample access to the lakefront because of many beaches. Says its not like the homeonwers are city of 30 yards of public beach that public would like to have access — says most of them don’t have beaches at all.
Says he’s not in favor of spending money going down this path. Doesn’t think it would ultimately end up going anywhere.

Burns says it wasn’t clear whether examples from Minnesota had ample beach area. But also talking bike paths and other amenities. Don’t think any of us would know where to come down on this issue more than a Harvard grad who’s been studying it for years — including a PILOT agreement with NU to generate additional revenue.

Sees it as a research opportunity to learn more — doesn’t know what that would be.

Reid says it goes beyond beach access — but entire lakefront. Says staff is asking for direction to go out for an RFP — should at least do that to figure out what the cost would be. If $400K project, then certainly not worth it. But if a few $10Ks then would be. And could put burden on residents who can most afford it.

Nieuwsma says argument is that we’re trying to get people to pay even more for what they’re already paying more for. Offers example of one lakefront house paying $50K plus … a house one house back from the lake paying about $36K.
Says lakefront homeowners are already paying more. Would understand an objection on that basis.

Wynne says the materials that Council received was written by a summer college intern comparing two lakes in Minneapolis — and speculated that there was a distinct difference in land values because there was no public access to one of the lakes. But provided no information about what the additional fee would be. Says comparing those two examples it’s not apples to apples — its like apples to basketballs. Says Evanston has five beaches, a public boat launch and the Northwestern campus is accessible.

Says she’s not the least bit interested in hiring a consultant at $100,000 to look at 42 properties. Says this also has a 100% certainty that city would be sued. Says as former land use attorney she doubts it’s legal.

Says the possible return that city would get. What are going to do, charge them each another $50K? The cost-benefit analysis doesn’t support doing it.

Says should certainly initiate a conversation with the new president of Northwestern University.

The idea that could impose this fee and would withstand legal attack is dubious.

Says Reid has a lot of other better ideas that she would support — but not this one. This does not make financial sense to undertake it.

Wynne says Minnesota hasn’t attempted to impose such a scheme. Says there are other better, progressive ideas that she would much rather spend time on.

Burns says he doesn’t think this is the right time for this. Says Council needs a work plan first to generate new revenue.

Wynne says need more information about capacity of staff. Says need to manage ARPA money — need to put staff on that.

Burns says he agrees right now. Don’t have the staff right now. Need a better process to determine what ideas are to be pursued for further research.

Johanna Nyden says staff doesn’t have the expertise to do the sort of study that Reid seeks. Says added permit desk staff this year, but still short a planning position. Says such an idea could be added into a comprehensive plan project that city is starting to work on. Says wouldn’t be able to do the request for proposals in the first six months of next year. Says likes to do academic exercises and make Evanston an innovative place. But been told by Council to prioritize the comprehensive plan for next year.

Wynne says now is not the time to undertake this — don’t want to lose any more of the community development staff.

Reid moves to table the proposal until the June 13 P&D meeting. Burns seconds
End up with tie vote. Wynne and Nieuwsma vote no.

Revelle resumes chairing the meeting. Moves adjournment at 6:50 p.m.

City Council meeting to start at 7 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.