Here’s a recap of our live coverage of this evening’s Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting.
Only two items on the committee’s agenda — the proposed office building at the Burger King site on Orrington Avenue, plus a discussion of a proposed tree preservation ordinance that would make residents pay a fee to take down a tree on their property.
The meeting is now scheduled to start at 5:40 p.m. because the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting ran long.
Meeting called to order at 5:41 p.m.
Ald. Eleanor Revelle (7th) chairs.
Cherie Fisher, co-chair of the Environment Board, speaks in favor of adopting a tree preservation ordinance.
P1 – 1732-40 Orrington zoning change and planned development
Ald. Devon Reid (8th) says its a thoughtful building, a beautiful design. But he says he doubts value of the proposed Divvy station as a public benefit.
Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) says she likes the project. When Burger King closed doesn’t think anybody in Evanston cried a tear about it — frequent police visits there.
Says it’s bringing in a type of building the city has been trying to get for nearly a decade.
Says similar buildings are being constructed adjacent to major universities all across the country.
Johnny Carlson of developer Trammell Crow says anticipates at least 650 full-time workers in the building.
Reid suggests using the Divvy money instead be used to address homelessness — says the Burger King provided that, after a fashion.
Community Development Director Johanna Nyden says there has to be a nexus with the particular development’s impact, given the current ordinance. Needs to clear that with legal department.
Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) says building had in an earlier design an “overbearing feel” especially on the west façade — says adding more feeling of depth on west side is an improvement.
Complains about building height. And parking.
Wants to not permit any other zoning changes on Clark.
Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) wants more planning for workforce development
Revelle says she agrees it’s going to be a beautiful building and brings a type of use the city hasn’t had, likes the public benefits.
Approved. No negative votes.
D1 – Tree preservation ordinance discussion
Emily Okallau, public service coordinator for the public works agency, says city wants to protect trees, but could be some unintended consequences — costs that could harm some residents.
Suffredin (6th) says it’s really important to protect the rights of property owners — who pay taxes on the property. How balance those interests, he asks? Says should find a way that’s not financially punitive to people who remove trees, and what’s the cost of the ordinance is going to be.
Nieuwsma wants to know how many trees are being cut down — how many might dictate the response.
Okallau says city doesn’t have a tree preservation ordinance so can’t tell. Says city doesn’t even collect permit data.
Wynne says she has had examples of two residents in last four years cut down very large trees that their neighbors protested about. Says would like to see some teeth put in — wants more restrictions.
Kelly wants to see ordinances from other cities. Suggests an ordinance at least for new development (including teardown and replacement of a home).
Nyden says trees are often taken out when people do additions or garages.
Revelle says Wilmette is considering an ordinance along this line now. Scheduled to adopt it March 8.
Burns says he’s concerned about unhealthy trees on their property — but can’t afford to take it down.
Reid says he agrees with Burns about the unhealthy trees issue.
Suffredin asks whether should pay people for hosting trees– where have tree in one yard that provides shade to other yards. Trees don’t come without costs, he says.
Suffredin says trees can be annoying. An incentive rather than a punishment might get us to a better place, he says.
Edgar Cano, acting public works director, says that could turn out to be extremely expensive.
Suffredin says he’s not convinced that there’s actually a widespread problem with trees being taken down.
“Do what you need to do to protect the trees, but don’t screw Evanston homeowners when you do it,” Suffredin says.
Revelle says except for Suffredin, council appears to be in favor of some sort of fee and perhaps a scheme for waivers for more “desirable” activities.
Nieuwsma suggests referring it to the Environment Board. Reid suggests sending it to the Land Use Commission instead. Cano says want to consider equity as well.
Revelle also likes sending it to the Environment Board. Nyden says Environment Board likely would be better.
Motion to refer to the Environment Board is approved.
Meeting adjourned at 7:34 p.m.