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Evanston Mayor Steve Hagerty told residents at a town hall meeting at the Levy Center Tuesday that he believes it’s unlikely the city will develop a new downtown plan.

Asked by an opponent of high-rise development downtown why the city doesn’t either implement the zoning changes called for in the 2009 plan or launch a process to develop a new downtown plan, Hagerty said, he doesn’t believe there are the votes on the City Council to take either of those steps.

He said that while, as an emergency management consultant he’s personally all in favor of planning, the city spend a lot of money and time developing the 2009 plan, and the council initially voted to adopt it, it was never codified because the council members couldn’t agree on the proposed changes.

More recently, Hagerty said, the staff, at the council’s request, developed a plan to rezone an area just north of the downtown plan’s boundary — including the 831 Emerson development site. There was a whole planning process and community meetings, but ultimately the Council didn’t vote to adopt those changes, the mayor said.

“So as much as I’m into the value of plans,” he added, “This is the Evanston way. The people we’ve elected have chosen to take it project by project.”

“It leads to big fights, and it’s stressful, but that’s the way it is.

Hagerty also took aim at claims by some development foes that there’s no demand for new downtown housing. “If there’s all this vacancy and no desire, why are developers coming here and wanting to invest literally hundreds of millions of dollars? Are they just idiots? A lot of other smart people think they’re right.”

“We’re going to have vigorous debate on planning and other issues,” Hagerty said. “That’s a good thing. But none of us are ever going to go away completely satisfied that our opinion prevailed.”


Two of the residents who complained about the pump station project.

The mayor also fielded complaints from residents unhappy about the City Council’s approval earlier this year of a water pumping station at 2525 Church St., about installation two years ago of protected bike lanes on Dodge Avenue and about plans for an affordable housing development at 2215 Dempster St.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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