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

The meeting was originally scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m., but because the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting ran over, P&D is now scheduled to start about 6:25 p.m.

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

Meeting called to order at 6:25 p.m.

Alds. Kelly, Wynne, Nieuwsma, Burns, Suffredin, Revelle and Reid present.

Minutes approved

Public Comment

Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, says the organization’s board opposes the convenience store special use permit at 518 Davis St.

Bonnie Wilson, neighborhood resident, says she’s worried about people parking in the alley to use the convenience store. Says people congregating in front of the store could be an issue for neighbors.

Items for consideration

P1 – Special use for convenience store at 518 Davis St.

Ald. Clare Kelly (1st) says the store would cause a negative cumulative effect. Says there are other convenience stores already in the area and the downtown needs more “interesting and enhancing businesses” not another convenience store. Worried about people running in to get tobacco.

Ald. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) says he agrees with Kelly and plans to oppose the proposal.

Ald. Devon Reid (8th) says the zoning board recommended approval. Asks why experts are saying it meets the standards, but other council members are not.

Community Development Director Johanna Nyden says final decision is up to to the City Council.

Says ZBA had some of the similar concerns. Some of the issues are community values that are only going to be ascertained by the council members.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) says negative cumulative effect of the business would be strong. Says alley carries a lot of traffic and have a lot of seniors walking on the sidewalk because of retirement communities nearby.

Reid says if city is going to limit the number of convenience stores — should set a specific limit. Says this way somebody else could seek a special use permit in a couple of months and have it be approved.

Proposal defeated on a 5-2 vote. Suffredin and Reid vote on the losing side.

Item for discussion

PD1 – Discussion of property standards procedures

Property Maintenance Supervisor Angel Schnur does a presentation. Notes that the city would normally have five inspectors, but staff is down by two currently. (Also have a customer service representative and Schnur as the supervisor.)

Complaints arise either through 311 complaints or regular rental inspections.

Data about inspections is maintained in a special database, separate from the city’s 311 system.

Routine rental property inspections occur three to five years.

Says city has on open property search tool that lets searchers know whether there’s an open complaint at a particular property.

Says would like to switch to a tiered inspection cycle for properties that don’t have violations … and has several other suggestions for improving the system.

Reid says Schnur has been a huge help whenever he’s reached out about issues.

He says needs to have more open information about violations, perhaps new software solutions. Says might allow neighbors to help each other.

Tina Paden, a landlord, says there’s a lack of communication with the landlords. Wants to improve the inspection process. Says the Housing Authority of Cook County has a contractor with iPads do inspections and she can see the results right away.

Says when city does inspections she has to wait to get the report in the mail. Says except for emergencies, the landlord should be allowed to be present for inspections. Says tenants call the city to complain before asking the landlord to make a repair.

Also complains about tenants tearing up apartments and then complaining to the city.

Carlis Sutton, another landlord, says he agrees with Paden. Says there’s a double-standard in the community. Some landlords get violations and others don’t.

“Sick and tired of this double standard,” Sutton says.

Says some inspectors are too aggressive, and landlords aren’t properly notified of issues.

Ald. Bobby Burns (5th) says appreciates Schnur’s report. “Really good detailed information in this,” he says.

Says 311 shows complaints as being “complete” when it isn’t, because the case has just been moved to a different database. Says getting the information all into one database would help and that city is looking for a new CRM to accomplish that.

Wants to reconsider what’s considered a vacant property.

Says property standards is handling a lot of complaints, without enough customer service support. Suggests may need reorganization to get it the support it needs.

Nyden suggests doing a memo on that for the start of the 2023 budget cycle.

Burns suggests the city needs landlord licensing to help fund more inspectional services.

Revelle says the landlord licensing issue is being discussed in a Planning and Development subcommittee.

Reid suggests could have synergies and efficiencies if parking enforcement staff cross-trained with property inspectors.

Planning and Development Committee meeting adjourned at 7:20 p.m.

City Council meeting to start at 7:25 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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