During a marathon meeting lasting nearly seven hours, Evanston’s Plan Commission voted 4-2 to recommend City Council approval of Northwestern University plans to hold up to seven commercial special events per year at the school’s Welsh-Ryan Arena.

The vote came after hours of questions and complaints from neighborhood residents who said they feared parking congestion and other problems if the two-year pilot program for the events was approved.

Mike Polisky, the university’s deputy director of athletics for external affairs, said the school wanted a chance “to prove ourselves” to be good neighbors while hosting the events.

The commission voted to add several conditions to the text amendment that would permit commercial events at the arena. They would:

  • Require written notice to residents within 500 feet of the site within five days of an events approval.
  • Require the school to provide parking for at least 2,000 passenger vehicles with 1,300 of them within the U2 district that includes the arena.
  • Prohibit loitering or tailgaiting before, during and after events.
  • Have the zoning change expire on Dec. 31, 2021.
  • Limit attendance at indoor events to 7,000 people and at outdoor events  to 3,000 people.
  • Require all events to be approved by the City of Evanston.

On a different issue, the commission voted 6-0 to recommend City Council approval of Northlight Theatre’s proposed planned development to construct a new theater building at 1012-1016 Church St.

The Plan Commission meeting, which began at 7 p.m. Wednesday evening, didn’t conclude until nearly 2 a.m. Thursday morning.

Related stories

Neighbors complain about NU arena events plan (6/26/19)

NU seeks more events at stadium complex (4/26/19)

Northlight wows 4th Ward crowd (8/9/19)

Northlight gets state grant toward new Evanston site (6/5/19)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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