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Prompted by aldermen who voted against a bed and breakfast approved last fall for 300 Church St. on the Evanston lakefront, a Plan Commission committee Tuesday voted to require that majority owners of future B&Bs live at the property.

Aldermen Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, and Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, claimed that the ownership structure of the 300 Church St. property — a limited liability company in which the majority owner lives across an alley from the property and the property is to be managed by a resident owner with just a 1 percent ownership interest in the LLC — violated the spirit of the city’s bed and breakfast ordinance adopted 15 years ago.

Fiske said the original concept was just for an empty-nester couple to be able to rent out a couple of bedrooms in their home.

The two aldermen initially sought to bar any corporate ownership of the business, but the plan commissioners rejected that, concluding that for legal liability purposes any bed and breakfast owner would be wise to incorporate or form a limited liability company.

Commissioner Dave Galloway said he agreed that the owner should reside in the property and have control of the business, so that if there’s a problem the city doesn’t have to chase after an absentee landlord. But he said the form of the ownership structure shouldn’t matter.

Commissioner Richard Shure raised the question of what would happen if homeowners had placed their house in a trust for estate planning purposes, an issue that did not appear to be clearly addressed in the proposed change approved by the panel, which specifies that owners of more than a 50 percent interest in the property would have to live there.

The committee also voted to:

  • Maintain existing restrictions that bar signs on B&Bs in residential neighborhoods.
  • Add a requirement that B&Bs provide one parking space per dwelling unit plus one space per guest room, which matches an existing rule in Oak Park.
  • Reject a proposal from Fiske to limit B&Bs to two bedrooms or 30 percent of the bedrooms in a home. Instead committee members voted to maintain the current limit of five rental bedrooms per B&B, which matches the limit in state law.
  • Rejected a proposal that would have required B&Bs to operate for less than the full year.
  • Agreed that special use permits for B&Bs should be limited to the current owner, and not run with the land.
  • Required that any proposed B&B be located a least 900 feet from any other B&B.

The committee failed to reach agreement on whether to limit special events that could be held at a B&B to three a year, or to not permit them at all.

The proposed regulations will be formally presented to the full Plan Commission at its Feb. 8 meeting. The ultimate decision on the changes will be up to the City Council.

Top: The 300 Church St. property that prompted the debate over bed and breakfast regulations (File photo).

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Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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7 Comments

  1. B&B in Evanston

    Can the hotels in Evanston really be so frightened of competiton from a small B&B on the lake front that they lobby their alderpersons to do everything in their power to stop it? It's no wonder there aren't any B&Bs in Evanston, it seems that the aldermanic goal is to make it impossible. Living in the house or across the alley, the owner is going to make this a wonderful asset for our community.  Here we have a man who has moved to our community and wants to invest in the community — a person who could benefit Evanston greatly in so many ways. He's now probably wondering where he might move to get away from us. I have stayed in B&B homes where the owner lives on site, and where the owner has a paid manager. One was not better than the other. A B&B is a small business, a potential employer, a potential tax payer, and should not be legislated away.  And why should a busines owner not be able to sell his busines? You're saying that a successful B&B in Evanston can never be sold as a B&B? How is that even legal? Who are you trying to protect?

  2. Embarrassing

    The two aldermen initially sought to bar any corporate ownership of the business, but the plan commissioners rejected that, concluding that for legal liability purposes any bed and breakfast owner would be wise to incorporate or form a limited liability company.

    Are Fiske and Wynne really that ignorant? Or are they just reflexively anti-corporation? Either way it's embarrassing, though not entirely surprising. Evanston has a long ways to go if it wants to dispel the notion that it's an anti-business town.

     

  3. Yes…They Are….

    Sadly Wynne and Fiske are that igorant as past votes and behavior have clearly illustrated.  I do at least hope that they have clients and/or are receiving some sort of fees from the erstwhile developers,  hotels, etc that they seem keen to promote at the expense of small businesses and enhanced community lifestyle which would at least explain their motives.

  4. The stunning arrogance of our aldermen

    There are no licensed B&B's in Evanston.

    And now Wynne and Fiske, two aldermen who are almost ALWAYS opposed to new development or businesses, reject an earlier vote by the City Council to allow billionnaire James Pritzker, the B&B owner, to set up a limited liabilty corporation.

    Pritzker plans to renovate the building and that will certainly raise property values in the neighborhood. It's even amazing to me that Fiske sits on the city's Economic Development Committee.

    Last September Aldermen Wynne said there were two illegal bed and breakfasts across the street from her but she didn't "blow the whistle" because they were her neighbors. What about Pritzker? Isn't he your neighbor, Mrs. Wynne? The arrogance is astounding.

    Yep, this is the kind of leadership we have in Evanston. Time for a change.

  5. God forbid it should be easy

    God forbid it should be easy for entrepreneurs to set up small businesses in Evanston.

  6. Parking requirement is ridiculous.

    The parking requirement is ridiculous.  There is plenty of parking in the area.

  7. Unreal

    This city is a mess, on every level thanks to inept leadership.

    What an opportunity that has been squandered.  Just the latest in many.

    Evanston is failing.

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