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Plan, preservation panels balk at merger

Members of Evanston’s Plan Commission and its Preservation Commission spoke out Wednesday night against the city manager’s plan to merge the two groups.

They were joined, at a meeting of the Plan Commission, by Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who said the merger "doesn’t make a lot of sense."

Members of Evanston’s Plan Commission and its Preservation Commission spoke out Wednesday night against the city manager’s plan to merge the two groups.

They were joined, at a meeting of the Plan Commission, by Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, who said the merger "doesn’t make a lot of sense."

Burrus, who spent three years on the Plan Commission, said the two groups have "vastly different skill sets" and said she believes a majority of aldermen would feel the same way.

Plan Commissioner Dave Galloway said he was chair of the Preservation Commission for two years, but "I consider consolidation a very bad idea." He said he didn’t think a single combined group could accomplish all the work both groups now are expected to do.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz has proposed combining or eliminating eight of the city’s 36 advisory boards and committees to reduce the amount of staff time required to manage the various groups. Evanston now has roughly twice as many appointed panels as other nearby communities.

Evanston Associate Preservation Commission member Mary Brugliera said she didn’t believe combining the preservation and plan commissions would save any staff time because the planner who now staffs the Preservation Commission spends 80 percent of his time on it.

Mary McWilliams, who said she’s been on the Preservation Commission since 1976, said the two groups have had "a very collegial relationship."

"But you (the Plan Commissioners) are the big picture people," McWilliams said, "and we deal with historic preservation — a specific facet of planning."

Preservation Commissioner Dian Keehan said that at some point in the future she might want to serve on the Plan Commission — but she wouldn’t have time to take on the work of both groups all at once.

Plan Commissioner Scott Peters said that in his experience as an attorney for a number of different communities, when preservation and planning functions are combined, "preservation falls off the table, it gets much less attention."

Community and Economic Development Director Lehaman Walker, after listening to the discussion, said he was sure that Bobkiewicz would "take all your concerns into account and come back with something more palatable to you."

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