Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council meeting.

Meeting called to order at 7:45 p.m.

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

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl opens with remarks saying the police department is in touch with the community. Police reflect the diversity of the community. And the department is sensitive to issues throughout the community. Says community owes a debt of gratitude to the police for their challenging work.

Police Chief Richard Eddington announces department promotions.

  • Jodie Hart to sergeant.
  • Angelo Williams to commander
  • Jason Parrott to deputy chief.

City manager announces new city staff hires …

  • Jennifer Lin, human resources division manager and the administrative services department, and
  • Gary Gerdes, building and inspection services division manager in the community development department.

Plans for Martin Luther King Day observances announced.

Trash pickup will be delayed by a day the week of Jan 19 because of the MLK holiday.

Public Works Director Suzette Robinson says have had much less snow so far this seasion compared to last winter.

Says got 60 percent compliance with the voluntary request to switch parking sides at midday on the day that temperature was expected to drop precipitously after the the snow fell.

Public Comment

Gary Schoemaker, Preservation Commission outgoing chair, says commission members happy to work trying to make recommendations regarding the Harley Clarke mansion.

Diane Williams, Preservation Commission member, echo’s Gary’s comments — urges working group to examine wide range of uses for the property.

Carl Bova, 1322 Rosalee St., says public resisted former proposal to demolish Civic Center. Says we can afford the Civic Center — doesn’t believe can’t also afford the mansion. Should take step-by-step approach. Suggests combining the city’s parks department and the two independent park districts into a new park district that could be headquartered at the mansion.

Diane Corling, 1914 Orrington, says uses Lighthouse Beach, says Harley Clarke mansion could be an excellent meeting place for public conferences and educational purposes.

Barbara Janes, of Evanston Parks and Lakefront Alliance, urges having the state’s coastal management program at Harley Clarke (despite the rejection city’s terms by the state). Says understand that because of the new administration there may not be interest in the proposal any longer. But says should meet with new leadership to find out what their priorities are. Says need to consider other options, but should also be flexible about possible terms with the state.

Linda Damashek, 1318 Judson St., says has wealth of information to share on possible alternative uses for the mansion. Says visited four other sites in the region and learned they were all break-even operations.

Mary Rosinski says city owns lot about a block and a half away on Sheridan Road that could theoretically could be new location for the mansion. (City Manager says believes there’s a water reservoir under that property.)

Consent Agenda

We’ll note any items taken off the consent agenda.

  • A 3.2 – Sewer rehab contract
  • A 3.3 – Natural gas purchase agreement
  • A 5 – Transportation network providers
  • P 2 – Parking requirements for increased residential density
  • H2 – Tenant lease conditions at Noyes cultural Arts Center
  • H 4 – Next steps re Arts Center move from Harley Clark
  • H 5 – Animal Shelter volunteer animal organization

Consent agenda approved.

A 3.2 – Sewer rehab contract — held in committee for further review of minority and Evanston resident hiring rules.

A 3.3 – Natural gas purchase agreement — Burrus abstains because she’s employed by NU. Approved 8-0-1.

A 5 – Transportation network providers — held in committee for more information on possible regulatory options.

A 8 – Carmen’s 1241 Chicago Ave. — liquor license cancellation. Final adoption. Unanimous. (Carmen’s is now sharing space in the Las Palmas building.)

A 9 – Sale of 629-31 Howard to Ward Eight — final approval for city manager to negotiate terms. Unanimous.

P 2 – Off street parking requirement increase when residential density increases — Approved 8-1. Rainey votes no.

H 1 – Adjusting tenant lease conditions at Noyes. Alderman Rainey says she’s concerned about subleasing provision — seems too broad. That an artist in Noyes could rent to somebody who does something entirely different.

City manager says terms are limited to arts-related groups. But Rainey says it still looks too broad. Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, says he sees Rainey’s point.

Mayor asks whether could sublease to artists from outside of Evanston. Told yes. Says she’s never understood why we do that.

Suggests amendment to clarify that has to be lease to another arts-related use. Grover moves, Wilson seconds. Amendment approved unanimously. Main motion.

H 4 – Next steps re Arts Center move from Harley Clark. Holmes says she can’t support it. Says need overall policy. Rainey says would be willing to support the move without specifying that are waiving permit fees. Agrees with Holmes. Amended to delete reference to covering the permit fees — but increasing the cash assistance for relocation by an equivalent amount. Rainey says have policy to not waive permit fees — should maintain that policy. Mayor says she agrees that if waive fees here will get more requests. Approved as amended.

Harley Clarke future uses

Wynne says agrees with city manager regarding forming committee of citizens, aldermen and preservation commission to look again at uses for the mansion. Rauner inaugurated today. Should let them get feet on ground and go back and see if there’s support for moving forward regarding IDNR. Should go back and explore the options available to us now. It’s been two-and-a-half years.

Burrus says not a heck of a lot has really changed. Most people probably feel the same way they did before. Many have come up with fanciful ideas about what to do. Should be clear parameters around the committee — otherwise get “death by committee.”

Are we going to make a decision that no property will be sold.

Will it have to be brought up to code, and what’s the cost.

And need to recommend how to pay for it — versus — well the city has extra money, it can afford it.

We don’t accept recommendations that don’t have solid money recommendations –no bake sales to raise $10 million.

And what purpose do we want — what’s the goal for the use of the building.

Many people on the council don’t want to continue to run this operation.

Dont wnat to seel land, don’t want it to be a for-profit.

Event space — math on that doesn’t work out.

Mayor adds …needs a date that the committee has to come to a decison.

Grover says not sure the working group should have to come to a decision. Should make a recommendation by the time the building is vacated.

Need to consider where the votes might be on the City Council for the various options. 

There doesn’t seem to be a consensus in the community, or on the council about what to do.

Doesn’t expect rabbit to be pulled out of a hat to save us.

Wilson says thinks working group is a good idea. But let them explore whatever is out there. Might be good or bad or something in between. If they come back with a terrible idea, we reject it.

Rainey says should limit the committee to three months. Needs to be advisory. Should come up with more than one proposal.

Says wonders if the group that went around looking at mansions looked at Pritzker’s Stone Porch — it’s magnificent — costs millions and millions to restore.

Holmes — watched installation of new administration –said first thing he said was to freeze everything. (What’s the chances of getting state money?)

Burrus — says disagrees with Wilson’s comment about parameters. If committee comes back with no idea of how to fund what to do — we’re back at square one. If don’t have committee that comes back with realistic plans — not all that helpful. Like going to college — have to consider what you can afford.

Tendam — says will be a lot of challenges. Has to be quick turnaround. Has to make sure it makes sense to aldermen.

Wynne — Thinks 90 days isn’t long enough. Says volunteers will need time. June 1, when the art center is to leave.

Grover — amends her proposal to suggest deadline of “before June 1.”

Approved unanimously.

H 5 – Animal Shelter volunteer animal organization

Tendam says may be asking too much of the VAO — who’s going to pay for it? Is told the city is providing it already.

Tendam says making the VAO responsible for all the fundraising seems overly ambitious. No harm in asking for everything, but have to be realistic about it.

Police Cmdr. James Pickett says city has been paying the bills and gradually would expect the VAO to take over after transition period.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz says can work out the language — always been intent that would be multiple parties involved in fundraising.

Approved unanimously.

Call of the Wards

Holmes — 5th Ward meeting Thursday at 7 p.m. Says very proud of police department.

Tendam — Jan 22 6th and 7th Ward meeting at Three Crowns 7 p.m.

Rainey — Joint 8th and 9th ward meetings on Thursday, Feb. 5, at Little Beans at Asbury and Oakton, 7 p.m.

Fiske — Says First Night was wonderful this year.

Council votes to go into executive session.

Public meeting ends at 9:36 p.m.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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