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Recap: Planning and Development Committee

Here's our live coverage of this evening's Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting. Aldermen are scheduled to discuss the proposed 16-story affordable housing development at 1900 Sherman Ave.

A rendering of "The Emerson" the new HACC development proposed for the northwest corner of Sherman Avenue and Emerson Street.

Here’s a recap of our live coverage of this evening’s Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting. Aldermen are scheduled to discuss the proposed 16-story affordable housing development at 1900 Sherman Ave.

The meeting is scheduled to start at 5 p.m. A packet with information on the agenda items is available online.

Meeting called to order at 5:03 p.m.

Minutes approved.

Public Comment
Twelve speakers favored the 1900 Sherman project. Eight opposed it.

P1 – Ground floor uses in D2 District
Staff recommends denying this zoning change, because of issues around the COVID-19 pandemic. Plans to bring back in future.
Johanna Nyden, community development director, says need to have time to learn more about what post-pandemic retail situation will look like.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, suggests just removing it from agenda.
Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said the proposal would add some flexibility, thinks should move forward with it.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says she agrees with Wilson.
Motion by Wilson to introduce the ordinance is approved.

P2 – Amending permit fee schedule
Adds a recording fee to the fee schedule.
Motion to introduce the ordinance is approved.

P3 – Plat of subdivision for 2402 Ridge Avenue
Shawn Jones, attorney for property owner, recommends removing the conditions (except for the sewer).
Kelly Gandurski, corporation counsel, says if subdivided, only access would be alley, which is very narrow.
Scott Mangum, planning and zoning manager, says city code does permit such restrictions.
Jones disputes those claims, says forcing dedication as part of subdivision is against the law. Says given the size of the parcel, owner is well within rights to subdivide the property.

Alderman Eleanor Revelle, 7th Ward, says she was disappointed that preservation commission granted the certificate of appropriateness when they hadn’t seen what was being proposed to be built.
Also concerned about additional traffic in the alley. Says will vote no on the subdivision request

Vote is 6-0 to deny the subdivision request.

P4 – 1900 Sherman Avenue — rezoning and planned development

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, says a friend of hers is a consultant to the developer, so she’s abstaining from discussion and vote.

Presentation from neighbors and developer

From developer … William James and Rich Monocchio make presentation.

James says its about how to provide affordable housing in the best say. Says making 100% affordable isn’t the best way to do it in this day and age. In past created concentration of poverty and poor outcomes. Best practice is to do mixed income housing.

Proposal can be a model for the region, he says.

Says reducing building height would reduce the number of affordable units so much that it wouldn’t be work the commitment of time and resources to build.

Says its a very attractive building.

Monocchio says good to hear from the public. Knows “some don’t agree with us.”

Says it’s all about affordable housing — trying to fulfill HACC’s mission.

Representative of neighbors urges a no vote on the project.

Committee begins discussion.

Wilson says he hears that council approves all big buildings. Not true. Last meeting turned down one. Says Council has focused on creating affordable housing opportunities. Nothing is perfect. If accepted all the complaints, wouldn’t be getting any affordable housing built. Says this is something we ought to go ahead and be supportive of.

Revelle asks about using city’s affordable housing wait list. Monocchio says the housing authority administers 15,000 vouchers. Do it in Evanston and all over the suburbs. Says can’t explicitly give a local preference because it raises fair housing issues. Says when have done housing vouchers in other suburbs the vast majority of occupants end up coming from the town where the development is or the town next door. Says he’s confident the vast majority of subsidize units will be occupied by Evanstonians. Says for the missing middle units can draw from Evanston’s affordable housing wait list.

Revelle says supporters of project in public comment were extremely persuasive and eloquent.

Says there’s clearly a need for the project. Says the building is taller than she would have preferred, but if was shorter would be less attractive — losing the setbacks and landscaping in the proposal.

Says if it were easy to secure a site and the funding for affordable housing, would be doing a lot more of it. Says greater density is going to be a key to develop affordable housing going forward.

Rainey says it was so rewarding to hear people supporting something tonight. “We don’t often hear that when it comes to a new development,” she says. Says reality is have to balance market rate with affordable housing — more market rate housing gets more affordable housing. Says couldn’t be more supportive. Height is not a bad thing. There’s nothing wrong with height at this location, she says. It’s a very good looking building.

Wynne says she’s been very reluctant and vocal about accepting height and density anywhere in Evanston. Says getting a significant number of affordable housing units is extremely difficult. Says architectural design of the building is really important. When design is excellent, don’t notice the height. Says the value of 51 affordable units in a mixed income development — leads to her supporting the development.

Revelle proposes amendment to require that applicants for the missing middle units come from the city’s affordable housing wait list.

Amendment approved 5-0.

Ordinance as amended is approved for introduction 5-0.

P5 – 1604-1631 Chicago Ave plat of subdivision
This item appeared on the committee agenda by mistake. It is only for action at full City Council meeting later tonight.

Meeting adjourned at 7:17 p.m.

City Council meeting to start in about 10 minutes.

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