Evanston’s Parks and Recreation Board is asking aldermen to tie their own hands when it comes to disposing of city park land.

The City Council’s Human Services Committee is scheduled to discuss Wednesday night a proposal from the parks board that the aldermen adopt an ordinance that would require them to acquire — at no net cost to the city — replacement land for any park land the council proposed to sell.

City ordinances already require that at least six of the nine aldermen approve any proposed sale of city property and that the aldermen provide at least two weeks advance public notice of their intent to vote on a sale.

Since the park board’s proposed ordinance requiring acquisition of replacement land could be repealed by a simple majority vote of the aldermen, it’s unclear what practical effect the proposal would have.

But Mark Metz, a member of the park board, says the board wants to draw attention to the importance of preserving park land and buildings “and somehow make it more difficult for the council in an economic crisis to turn to the sale of land as a solution.”

“But we don’t want to prohibit the city from giving up a piece of public land in exchange for another if it make sense for both parties,” Metz said.

If a developer wanted a particular city parcel and said, “‘I’ll acquire this land over here and it’s better land for a park, and we both win,'” that could be OK, Metz suggested.

He said park board members concerns were raised “about all these rumblings” in recent months about the since-rejected possibility of selling the Chandler-Newberger Center, and the ongoing discussions about repurposing the Noyes and lakefront arts centers.

The proposed ordinance would also require, under some circumstances, the acquisition of substitute property before park property could be leased out.

Related document

The park board’s proposal

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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