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Planning and Development Committee

Here's a recap of our live coverage of this evening's Evanston City Council Planning and Devleopment Committee meeting at which the committee voted to approve a bed and breakfast proposed for 1622 Forest Place.

The meeting was called to order at 7:20 p.m. A packet with information on tonight's agenda items is available online.

Minutes approved.

Sidewalk cafe requests

Carmens 1241 Chicago … approved.

Forever Yogurt, 1729 Sherman … approved

Starbucks, 1734 Sherman … approved.

1915-1919 Grey planned development one year extention … approved.

318-20 Dempster planned development two year extension … approved.

Dollop Coffee Co and Hoosier Mama Pie Co. special use permit for 749 Chicago … approved.

Bed and Breakfast special use … 1622 Forest Ave.

Dennis Marino of city staff recaps that the proposal was approved by the Preservation Commission and the Site Plan and Appearance Review Committee … but rejected by the Zoning Board of Appeals.

Related story.

Andrew Scott, attorney for developer, says ZBA concluded the project met seven of the nine standards.

Issues were "cumulative negative impact" and whether it's consistent with the comprehensive plan.

Scott says the project budget is roughly $5.5 million and one of the goals and policies of the comprehensive plan is to maintain and enhance the quality of housing in Evanston. Says project will certainly serve that purpose and goal.

Says has been a lot of discussion about what was the intent of the B&B ordinance when it was passed in 1990. Says there's nothing in the record to devine the intent of the ordinance back then. Says no evidence presented to the ZBA regarding the intent of the ordinance.

Says this project will be self-contained with six-off-street parking spaces in the coach house plus plenty of surface parking toward the rear of the site.

Says such 100-year-old homes are very difficult and expensive to maintain — and this proposal provides.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, asks what room rates are likely to be.

Scott says $150 to $300 a night. 

Says it's project is not meant to turn a profit, necessarily, but to create a legacy for Pritzker's children.

Says it's an opportunity to defray costs — much like what was contemplated for other B&B projects.

Mary Lindberger, coml real estate appraiser who lives in Evanston at 1017 Ridge Ave, speaking for the developer, says B&Bs are not a common type of lodging in Chicago compared with other parts of the country.

Says they effectively look like and function as single family homes.

Says on Cedar Street downtown there is one. Largely single family area. B&B at 68 E. Cedar. Says one home across the street sold for $2.5M and another next door sold for $3.5M.

Says brokers in those two transactions told her there was no evidence of any impact on prices from having a B&B nearly.

Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, says it doesn't seem there's any hard data — more anecdote that hard data to guide us.

Lindberger says there's just not a sufficient base of transactions to provide more solid evidence.

Scott says the City Council decided in 1990 that it was a compatible use.

Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, asks about Pritzker having purchased four properties on that block and an additional property on Lake Shore Drive.

Scott says the 1622 Forest property wasn't under contract then and had no intent at that time to do more B&Bs.

He says the additional properties acquired since then Pritzker intends to rent out as single family homes.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, says even though the appearance may be the same as a single family home — the use won't be. 

Scott says former owner had 14 people were living on the property.

Wynne says that's still a family — not a business use.

Public Comment

Bethany Collins, 1629 Judson Ave., says she's known Col. Pritzker for 15 years and owns their home jointly wth Pritzker. Says she believes the B&B will increase the value of surrounding properties.

Says Pritzkers have been exemplary neighbors and murch appreciate their friendship.

Jan Halperin, director of development at the Evanston History Center, says the house is significant historically (quotes from Evanston Index story from 1883 regarding the home's construction.)

Says B&Bs help increase cultural heritage tourism. Says EHC welcomes opportunity to partner with B&B owners.

Says Pritzker personally has supported the Evanston History Center.

Ryan Kettelkamp, 1126 Brummel, landscape architect hired to work on the project. Says project will provide a great new addition to the Evanston Garden Walk. Says Pritzker has worked closely with local contractors and tradespeople. Says Pritzker's commitment to local economy is significant.

Says he'd like to have his mother-in-law who lives in Louisiana be able to stay in a B&B when she visits here. Says where she lives there are lots of B&Bs and he doesn't see any evidence that they devalue surrounding properties.

(Numerous other people who've signed up to speak opt not to actually do so … perhaps 30 or more later )

Paul Janeke, architect for project and nearby resident, says that while he was traveling the east coast looking for college for his child, found there were beautiful cities with lots of B&Bs — Evanston should have the same opportunity for people to stay in historic structures in historic neighborhoods.

Kim Garlick, 1608 Forest Place, says she supports the project. Says as an architect, she knows how time consuming and costly such projects can be.

Kent Swanson, nearby resident and developer, says project will have a low impact on neighbors. Says two homes in the neighborhood have sold for high prices in recent months — despite the one B&B approved and another under consideration.

Chris Ernst, 1639 Hinman, about a block from the property, agrees with ZBA decision. Concerned that it seems the council is prepared to override the ZBA again. Says language of B&B ordinance seems to anticipate "Ma and Pa" operations. Says it appears, from his reading of the city code, that the B&B would not have to pay hotel tax.

Jeanne Lindwall, 625 Library Place, says she's should seriously consider the ZBA's recommendation.

Mary Singh, 1711 Hinman, says she was there when the B&B ordinance was written — says was intended for empty-nesters to make a little extra money. Says she lives in the same historic distict, two blocks away. Says one sold after four days the other sold after not ever formally being on the market. So she doesn't think there's a problem selling these big old houses. Doesn't think B&B solution is needed.

David Reynolds, 204 Davis, urges council to follow the ZBA's recommendation. Reynolds, who owns the Homestead hotel, says the B&Bs will have a negative cumulative impact on the neighborhood.

End of citizen comment

Fiske moves that the ZBA decision be upheld … and reject the special use. Wynne seconds.

Grover says that the council last year rejected amendments to the B&B ordinance that would havei imposed the sort of restrictions opponents wanted.

Says the standards used by the ZBA are subjective and Council is free to reach its own conclusions. Says she beleives another bed and breakfast will not be detrimental to property values in the neighborhood and bigger picture it's important to add the B&B type of accommodation to the hospitality landscape in Evanston.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, says she was at the ZBA hearing and believes that if supporters of the B&B had been present the outcome would have been different. Says no people were speaking in favor of it that night.

Says we can't pick and choose when we give credence to the Preservation Commission. Any other time we would acknowldege that was an important vote — we can't say it doesn't matter this time.

Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says some neighbors are concerned about there being four or five B&Bs filling out the block. Says his impressions when approved the first one was that there only would be one. Now there are two.

Wilson says that the B&B is a business and will be competing with other businesses that need to make a profit. If we have a block of 4, 5, 6 or 7 in a row — that would probably adversely impact the business of competitors. That's a fair concern, he says.

But, Wilson says, I don't think we're at that point — but are precariously close.

Fiske says the neighborhood is barely two blocks wide, close to downtown. Sees it as potentially creating a commercial corridor between downtown and the lakefront.

Says no one is questioning the quality of the work Pritzker does on renovations. But says the economics of the deal are creating an artificial environment that's not supportive of single family residential uses.

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, says since none of us are in the fortune-telling business, can't tell what will happen to other properties in the future. Any additional B&Bs will still require special use approval from the council.  

Says sometimes people have different views, aren't going to always support the ZBA recommendation.

Rainey says ZBA is a recommending body — council doesn't have to agree with them. It's not a fault of the council to not support ZBA, she says.

Wynne says she supports the ZBA decision. Two B&Bs one house apart makes the block too commercial, she says. Means the owners of the house inbetween can't have what everybody wants — another family living next door.

Says thinks that the idea that the big houses are too difficult to maintain is not true — they're selling to private buyers at premium prices.

Rainey says that supports the idea that B&Bs can co-exist with single family homes.

Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, says in his ward a lot of big homes are selling quickly — but for a lot less than they did a few years ago.

Says putting money into the B&B strengthens property values.

Fiske's motion fails 5-2. Only Fiske and Wynne vote for it.

Wilson moves to recommend approval of the B&B to City Council. That motion carries 5-2. Fiske and Wynne vote no.

Meeting adjourned at 8:45 p.m.

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