downtown-zoning-district-height-limits

Evanston Plan Commissioners voted 6-0 Wednesday evening to recommend approval of a taller height limit for the city’s downtown core.

The proposal, developed by city staff, now goes to the City Council for final approval.

The downtown core, or “D3” zoning district, now lacks the 40 foot height bonus offered planned developments in other “D” districts when 75 percent or more of the first four floors of a building is used for parking.

All the downtown districts also offer general height bonuses for planned developments. Any project that includes more than 20,000 square feet of gross floor area is required to be approved as a planned development.

Planning and Zoning Administrator Damir Latinovic told the commission the goal of the change is to eliminate a discrepancy in the zoning code and make clear that the maximum height in the center of downtown was meant to be taller than in the surrounding downtown districts.

But under the existing zoning, Latinovic said, developments in the D4 downtown transition district could end up with greater height that ones in the downtown core.

A zoning map showing the “D3” and surrounding downtown zones.

Associate Plan Commisisoner Stuart Opdycke noted that under the zoning called for in the 2009 Downtown Plan the downtown block that includes the 708 Church St. building could have a maximum height of 385 feet — while under its existing D2 zoning it is limited to a height of 125 feet.

Under the Downtown Plan much of what’s now the D3 zone would have had a maximum height of 275 feet, but the zoning that document recommended would have reduced height limits in other parts of downtown.

The new proposal would give the D3 zone a maximum height of 260 feet.

Opdyche said, “There’s a lot of good stuff in the downtown plan, but it just seems to be sitting on a radiator someplace.”

Latinovic said there appears to be no interest among aldermen in implementing the zoning provisions called for in the Downtown Plan.

The plan also advanced a “form-based zoning” scheme — a concept popular with city officials several years ago that does not seem to catch their fancy now.

Latinovic said one reason for making the staff-proposed change now is that no development proposals are currently pending for the D3 zone.

Related story

City seeks higher height limit in downtown core (9/7/15)

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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