Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting.

The meeting was called to order at 7:18 p.m.

Minutes approved.

A packet with information on tonight’s agenda items is available online. (.pdf)

Forgivable loan to Community Partners for Affordable Housing.

Related story here.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says she’s opposed to the plan. Concerned about impact of project on other affordable housing programs in the city. Concerned that group hasn’t been able to identify properties. Says she’s not concerned that the money may go back to the feds if not spent — shouldn’t spend money just to spend it, she says.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, says he supports the proposal. Says head of the group is a 2nd Ward residents, says he has a wonderful track record of doing projects in Lake Forest and Highland Park.

Says he wants to see affordable housing spread from the 5th and 8th Ward to the 2nd Ward.

Sarah Flax of city staff says in the NSP2 program the city has five housing units that haven’t finished acquisition of for rentatl properties now. Says properties that have been acquired are renting up quickly. On the for sale side properties aren’t sitting — have two or three closing within the next few weeks.

Rainey says she has a basic problem with the land trust concept — calls it bizarre, given the Evanston housing market.

Rob Anthony, executive director of CPAP, says its a non-profit community housing development corporation. Says it has a community land trust model that it uses for some properties, but uses various strategies.

Says ideally the property would be a two-flat, but could do two single family homes. Says won’t be buying condo units.

Says CPAP has taken over the operations of the Citizens Lighthouse Community Land Trust — which previously did one housing unit in Evanston. Says CLCLT is going out of existence and doesn’t have an ongoing role with CPAP, although some members of the CLCLT are advisors to CPAP.

Says the property would not be property-tax exempt, but tax rate would be based on the rent role.

Says group has been initially approved for funding through the state attorney general’s office to do 10 units of affordable housing under a settlement of foreclosure issue disputes with banks.

Flax says there’s no guarantee that the state money will come through, but have about nine properties in the 2nd Ward that could be acquired for this program.

Says the state program has fewer restrictions than the HUD programs that the city typically uses.

Says the 2nd Ward areas had not been hit as hard by foreclosures as the 5th and 8th Ward neighborhoods that were included in the NSP2 grant application — but that since then the foreclosure problem has become more severe in that ward.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says the attorney general isn’t normally in the role of providing affordable housing grants, but a number of states were involved in a national settlement regarding the foreclosure crisis. In this instance the attorney general convened a meeting of affordable housing groups — very hopeful will receive the funding — but no assurance yet.

Says no indication that there will be onerous oversight from the attorney general’s office.

Approved.

Strange Lofts rezoning from I2 to MXE.

1715 Church, 1703-1711 Darrow. Approved.

Hill Arts District rezoning several properties from I2 to MXE

Approved.

Office furniture resale establishment special use permit at 1104 Davis.

Approved.

Vacation rental regulation — require special use permit.

Public comment

Maureen O’Donnell, 2509 Ashland, says neighbors are concerned about allowing people to rent properties while not being on site.

Howard Handler, North Shore Barrington Association of Realtors, says ordinance still uses a sledge hammer to pound a nail. Says it casts far too wide a net. Makes it nearly impossible for residents to rent property on a short term basis — especially for those doing it only occasionally. For those the burden, he says, is overwhelming.

Don Fell, says he has a vacation rental. Says knows some neighborhoods have had a problem. Says he’s never had problems. Says unfair that now will have to go before the city to get a permit — even though he lives in the building.

Says knows aldermen themselves use vacation rentals when they travel, can’t see why people shouldn’t be able to use them here.

Committee discussion

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says should be something that requires folks to have a phone number posted for someone who manages the property — otherwise leaving it to police and fire and property standards to manage the property.

Says if someone wants to do this once, we’re putting them through a lot of bureaucratic process. Says we’re trying to get at people who are doing it on a regular basis.

Wilson says he agrees with the one-time exemption.

Says he’s concerned about whether ordinance would apply to existing properties that are already operating.

Grant Farrar, corporation counsel, says he believes it would apply to any new rental — after the effective date or the ordinance.

Wynne says — so if effectie date is June 30 … any rental starting after June 30 would be covered.

Wilson says seems could be an argument that existing use wouldn’t be grandfathered in.

Farrar says every rental period is a new rental period.

(One issue Wynne raises is regarding the time required to get approval for a special use — which typically is 90 to 120 days. That raises the possibility that a contract could be entered into before the ordinance is effective for a rental period happening after the ordinance takes into effect.)

Rainey notes that getting a special use takes a while. Says a lot of people may flood the Zoning Board of Appeals with requests. What happens if they start backing up?

Farrar says it will open the door and the ZBA docket will be full. Says it’s going to be extremely challenging.

Rainey says maybe should consider a subcommittee of ZBA to handle the issues.

Rainey suggests doing it like sidewalk cafes — make the first review intense, but much lighter for subsequent years. Or give approval for multiple years. Says usually special uses are permanent — just just for one year.

Wynne says maybe should make effective date four months from now — to give ZBA time to work on approvals.

Wynne says ordinance doesn’t appear to say that it’s an annual approval process. Turns out that’s only in the staff memo.

Farrar says could do the sidewalk cafe approach to approvals.

City manager says staff can come back with management phone number, one time exemption and implementation schedule revisions and sidewalk cafe style approval process at June 10 council meeting.

Committee votes to direct staff to do that.

Dwelling unit occupancy limits discussion

Public Comment

Howard Handler, NSBAR, says occupancy standards should be the same regardless of whether you’re blood-related or not.

Says regulation for up to 6-unrelated should be a one time application, not every year.

Asks for several other revisions to the proposal.

Committee discussion

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says wanted to focus less on blood relationships and more on the physical structure of the building.

Committee votes to refer it to Plan Commission for further review. Will be at commission meeting on second Wednesday in July.

Meeting adjourned at 8:23 p.m.

City Council meeting to begin at 8:30 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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