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

Meeting is called to order at 9:07 p.m. 

Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl changes agenda, decides to read Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. Evanston North Shore Alumnae Chapter “Red and White” day. Proclaims Nov. 25 “Red and White” day in celebration of organization. 

Township meeting called to order. 

Evanston Township meeting minutes approved.

Citizen comment:

Betty Ester, 2031 Church St.: Has questions concerning proposed budget; why is there no fund in GA budget or town budget for supervisor or tax assessor?; how will they get paid if town organization is continued?; why is Illinois Municipal Township increased when executive and supervisor has no salary in the budget, town fund shows decrease for that item?…How is it GA and Town fund for fiscal 2013 and 2014 has a deficit, when they have been traditionally balanced… said it stated 170 clients would be funded, I hear it is 186, and amount proposed in budget doesn’t cover cost of 170 or 150 clients?… Also, you cut out summer youth program and said it would be funded in city budget, under what department in city budget? Those questions and the budget need to reflect those issues, she says. If you’re going to do truth in taxation have to show what is given out and to who, you cannot go forward even though vote is going to come back and referendum will result in Township going away, we do not have a crystal ball. If you have one I’d like to borrow it, she says. Needs to be a salary for Township supervisor and tax assessor, because those positions have to be filled and they need to be paid. 

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th ward, says they are good questions and asks for copy of speech.

Approval of Township budget, and change in Township fiscal year moved and seconded. 

Introduction of Township budget and to refer to Human Services Committee on Monday for further discussion. 

Rainey moves to deal with both at the same time. 

Motion approved unanimously. 

Township meeting is adjourned. 

Reconvene as the Evanston City Council at 9:22 p.m. 

Tisdahl announces National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention Month – Dec. 2013.

City awarded for being bike friendly, Tisdahl notes.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz notes celebtration on Dec. 9 involving former elected officials for commemoration of city’s 150th anniversary.

Joe McRae appointed new Parks Director, Bobkiewicz announces. Says he will continue as one of two deputy city managers, too. 

Joe McRae: Thanks for the opportunity to serve this great community. Looking forward to all we can accomplish toward the benefit of residents.

Asst. Director of Public Works Maiworm asks residents to follow alternate street parking on Dec. 2 to cleanup last remaining leaves and yard waste. Also asks if special circumstances to notify city of that by Dec. 1 to do a special posting to accomodate those special situations.

Says snow parking restrictions in effect as of Dec. 1, in effect after 2 inches, and snow emergency after 4 inches. Snow emergency fines increased to $55 and towing increased to $150. 

In response to question from Alderman Jane Grover, 7th ward, Maiworm says city is trying to get all street sweeping done in week of Dec. 2. 

Some municipalities encourage residents to mulch leaves? Have you looked into that, Tisdahl asks.

We encourage all residents to do that, he says. Says street sweepers only clean street, not residential leaves.

Street sweeping text announcements will ask for voluntary compliance as opposed to mandatory.

Citizen comment:

Junad Ritzki: Says officials more interested in personal agendas, mentions water department operating in the red, says 10 percent water bill increase has no justification…water department didn’t present capital during this thing…says some want to replace water tank for $26 million on Northwestern campus, says will cause water bills to go up 20 percent for next 30 years possibly, says it could be repaired for $4 million. Says city never justified $3 million it takes from water fund, and says city refuses to reveal profit from water fund. City was supposed to inform residents of issues with transponders, didn’t do it. Says he feels there is an attitude in fire dept. that personnel park their personal vehicles in station, says city should revisit… we need to start operating the city in a more professional manner. 

Jean Lindwall, 625 Library Place, says please deny time extension for Church Street development. Says they don’t have purchase agreement with property owners… City Council chose to grant extraordinary site allowances and exceptions based on benefits no longer relevant… says Washington National TIF ended before it goes forward… Fountain Square, Orrington streetscape improvments planned and completed before construction begins… What happens if owner and Focus decide to market PD to someone new? Rewarding Focus for past successes is not a reason for the extension… Please vote no.

Alan Drebin, 807 Davis… says Church Street development is a lousy deal…says Focus not owning it makes it more puzzling…. says special use permit goes with property not owner, and don’t know who owner is, would be giving special rights to land trust… reads ordinance that says no PD for special use should be valid for longer than one year unless longer period granted by CC…says ordinance has some meaning… by granting this now it discourages development downtown… Receive applause.

Southeast Evanston Association statement on the PD is read again (previously read at the Planning and Development Committee).

Tom Snyder speaks again (spoke at P&D committee meeting). Urges rejection of extension.

Glenn Gray speaks again (spoke at P&D committee meeting). Says developer only cares about “his pocketbook.” He says “stop the tower, save Evanston.”

Resident seeks answers to Evanston’s unsolved murders. Mentions Keith Tucker…Says one of the 36 unsolved murders was her nephew, Marcus Davis… Says not info given to family in regards to continued investigation… How past shootings over the summer in broad daylight on government property in Evanston, duly noted, positively identified person of interest yet not one verifiable arrest has been made… Says in other instances individuals are apprehended on numerous charges without one shot fired… “I guess justice doesn’t always mean the bad guys go to jail…” Says obvious conflict of interest needs to be answered… The issue seems not to be addressed or overlooked in matters concerning ongoing investigations… found solace in saying “for everyone finger that points at someone else they should remember three pointing back at them”… how is this city being run and who is running this city?

Joan Tailor, 1860 Sherman Ave., represents Evanston Mental Health board, says board members deeply concerned about welfare of citizens…and concerned about costs… Says mental health agencies funded served 5279 clients. Cites the Moran Center, says 94 percent of 85 clients on probation were able to successfully abide by terms of order saving the cost of enforcement officers’ time…. mentions Peer Services, says 40 clients served, 83 percent participatedin 12-step program…says YOU program at Chute Elementary only funded if they get one-time grant of $37,000 that would be cut in 2014 due to federal government sequester. Request money to be used by different agencies…. requests investment in agencies. 

Annette, 907 Sherman, says business on her block allowed to make noise for two years… says not a quiet neighborhood…but indoor noise from Revolution Spin has been ongoing and particularly jarring… loud music and yelling of instructors very annoying mix, especially on weekend mornings… says neighbors have been complaining for over two years, and police and aldermen asked biz to turn down noise, but they don’t respond… not sure what ordinance should be enforced or what entity should be contacted to enforce request for toning down the nosie… doesn’t understand how biz can arrogantly dimiss complaints brought to their door. 

Citizen comment concludes.

Minutes of prior meetings approved.

The agenda items up for discussion or action are read by Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th ward.

The consent agenda is passed unanimously.

Alderman Wynne reads resolution regarding extension of the PD at 708 Church St.

It is my ruling this resolution must be approved by six votes, Tisdahl says.

Could counsel advise the vote required to overrule the decision of the chair.

City Attorney Grant Farrar says that req. majority vote per council rule.

Rainey moves to overturn decision by Tisdahl based on lack of codification in city books… I think to establish this precedent on extensions is serious business and is wrong and has never been proposed to this council in all my years that a two-thirds vote i required for a plan and simple extension. To those of you for or against this particular proposal…I would hope you’d look at motion as having nothing to do with that proposal.

Burrus seconds Rainey to overrule Tisdahl’s ruling.

I was hoping for a discussion on the point, says Alderman Jane Grover, 7th ward. Says appear to be difference between attorney recommendation and past practice, says have not been involved in vote that requires super majority.

I would think that principle was on my side, Tisdahl says. Says it is highly controversial issue, says it took six vote majority to win issue five years ago and thinks the same majority is required because the significance of issue is equally great.

We cannot willy nilly majority votes when we have controversial issues, Rainey says… That to me is the worst argument for a two-thirds vote.

Tisdahl says it took two-thirds vote to get here and should take that to continue down the road.

Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd ward, agrees with Tisdahl. To me it makes sense two-thirds majority also required for extension, she says. Other instances [with approved PDs] that don’t require two-thirds vote is a different situation… Otherwise we are making a nullity of the original two-thirds.

[PDs] only require super majority when it exceeds zoning maximum allowances, she says.

I agree with Alderman Wynne, says Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st ward. Says she’d like to hear from counsel.

Farrar: One of the things I’m struggling with right now is policy question before body and motion to overrule the chair, important at this point to indicate an remind a motion to overrule is an incidental motion…I think what’s happening right now…is in the context of the motion to overrule the counsel is debating the underlying issue…says if will of council is to consider underlying issue appropriate to get to that matter before motion to overrule.

Rainey says she’ll hold the motion but won’t withdraw it.

Farrar: Says staff confronted with set of novel facts…simple fact of the matter with respect to what has happened in other PDs and special uses and extensions, that is all relevant but not despositive.

Says special uses each considered on their own merits…says that means that given the context, given fact the code is not silent, speaks to considering each special use on its own, what happens when voting on an extension that required a two-thirds vote in 2009. Says that ordinance would not have been approved but for that six votes. He says it became a matter of simple logic mirroring the requirement of the ordinance tonight.

We had to look what came before…we had to consider in terms of risk avoidance and risk management scenarios where challenges would be mounted… The issue was always at the forefront of our mind, what does the extension require and if it requires five votes, will their be a lawsuit. It’s quite clear there will be litigation. Says litigation certainly contemplated on that score and possibility applicant could file suit against the city. Says they made careful, balanced approach and that’s the best contextual info that informed staff’s recommendation for a two-thirds vote.

What cannot be disagreed and contested is the contextual basis that brought us to this point…based on the fact the code is silent, we made the judgment call and recommendation to council to proceed [with a two-thirds vote].

Need help distinguishing this from other requests for PD extensions, says Grover.

A code amendment on this issue is definitely necessary, Farrar says.

We all agree, Tisdahl says.

The fact this requires six votes is not outside the bounds of well-reasoned and factual circumstances presented in this case, Farrar says… It was an extension of logic and context to recommend two-thirds vote, he says.

I will an support ordinance and I will even refer it that in any case a PD required two-thirds vote for passage, that any extension requires two-thirds passage, but we don’t have that ordinance now, says Rainey… Says we are making it up that this extension requires a two-thirds… Says Farrar is best city attorney Evanston has ever had, but says he is wrong on this point. She says it’s got to be an ordinance, but we’re not there yet…and that’s why I’m challenging the ruling of the chair, and adds that she thinks Tisdahl is the best mayor Evanston has ever had.

I think our code presumes a simple majority to get something done… Grover says she thinks 5-4 vote is OK in this instance.

I hope the vote isn’t 8-1, you know this has nothing to do with you and my respect for you, concerned we are making law where it doesn’t exist right now, says Rainey to Tisdahl.

Rainey moves to unhold motion to overrule Tisdalh. Seconded by Burrus again.

6-3 vote to overrule Tisdahl’s ruling that a super majority is required. Fiske, Wynne and Wilson in the minority.

Rainey asks to amend the three-year extension to one-year. Seconded by Burrus.

My argument for that would be in one year all the issues could be clarified and the developer be in a position to describe to us the planned project, says Rainey. For example, perhaps there aren’t going to be so many units…just to give us the flavor of the project, if he can do a project, I don’t know if he can or not.

Maybe by the time the year is out we’ll have requirement for two-thirds vote on an extension, says Tisdahl.

If he amends the plan, he should go back to the Plan Commission, says Fiske… What’s before us right now is voting on the extension and the extension application is for three years and I’d encourage everyone to turn that down… says harmful to future developments, detrimental to professionals who work in building, detrimental to surrounding retail and downtown. Says it’s an outdated project we should say not to. Says we should start over again. Receives applause from audience.

Ask developer if one-year extension is acceptable, Burrus says. Also asks for list of extensions granted to other PDs.

Director of Community and Development Mark Muenzer says he needs to go back and look at the actual list, says it was compiled very quickly. Says average extension time for all PDs was two years, of the PDs that requested an extension (between 2003-08).

Anderson: We asked for three years, one of the concerns I heard was about length of time…I think a shorter term of time will address that and I think we can live with that one year.

What do we hope to happen in the next year, Mr. Anderson, Grover asks.

Anderson: any action that requires a PD will go to a year and half, take a longer period of time to get something happening. Says quicker course of action to make that development happen.

Says he will not stay interested in property without the extension.

Says PD would be in same framework but be adjusted to market.

Convert to rental? Grover asks.

We have looked at that option and potential ownership and it may be a mix, says Anderson. But says he’d rather come back with concise plan than vet it in public.

What does city gain? Grover asks.

Anderson: Gains possibility of project on a critical block much faster.

And what about the public benefit? Grover asks.

Anderson: It would have to be looked at on the value of it’s merits…. other projects extended and looked at in light of situation, and we ask for the same.

Minor adjustments can be done without going to Planning Commission, but in the build-out of the project…but major adjustments require going to PC, Wilson says… Three years or one year it is going to end up back in that process, the three or one year delay is just delaying putting it back in that process.

He says he doesn’t see how the city picks up any probably benefit… He says other entities who asked for extensions came with specific indication of what they want to do. He says he has strong reservations and doesn’t feel comfortable pushing it through.

Plan Commission has possibly two PDs come before it, Wynne says. Says PC isn’t busy…doesn’t think we’d lose time if we denied extension. It would send them back to the drawing board…what they are doing is taking an outdated plan and trying to shave parts of it off, ultimately that will cause more community controversy and lengthen the time… says Wynne.

Wynne suggests the council deny the extension and ask them to come back with a new plan. Audience applauds.

If this comes back as partial rental, need to look at affordable housing benefits, currently only refers to for-sale units, Burrus says.

As many of you know I have no love for this development at all, she says. But I do believe that Focus development did a great service taking their time with 1717 Ridge and part of the reason they haven’t been able to move forward on this project. Says Wynne sugar-coating process of starting from scratch.

This project is outdate and not relevant to all the strategies we’ve been working on, says Fiske. Frankly, prospect of rental building downtown inconsistent with all the efforts put in, she says. Audience applauds.

Tim Anderson is not going to build an obsolete building, it’s not going to happen, says Rainey. How can you dare say it won’t be the best building in town, you just don’t know that, Alderman Fiske, says Rainey…. And if rentals are in, then rentals are in, she says.

We’re giving them a year to try to bring it up to date, says Rainey.

Project approved with most extraordinary allowances…public benefits to the city have mostly evaporated by now…allowing the developer to build a building that is irrelevant, says Fiske. Says downtown is saturated with rental units, and that the city needs a forward-looking building. Says city is overbuilt on condominiums, too.

Tisdahl breaks up argument between Rainey and Fiske, says it’s after 11 p.m. and more people want to speak on the issue.

Wilson says part of what made this a good deal for the city were benefits that could be realized in short term… says instead TIF has suffered and neighborhood has suffered and it is time to get it back to planning stage to get plan together that fits with overview of downtown.

Applicant has obligations for five years on 708 Church, for me it’s the lapse of five years while other projects have proceeded and been completed, that’s hardest for me to wrap my head around, says Grover.

Rainey disputes Wilson’s claim that the TIF has suffered. Says school districts would be happier if building was not in a TIF, she says. She says not fair to make those kind of comments, the TIF has not suffered.

Because increment wasn’t realized sooner…increment hasn’t materialized. Will be great when a property is developed…but let’s get it going and get back to planning, Wilson says.

Let’s give it a year and if it can do it let’s kill it, says Rainey.

I was concerned about three years and much more comfortable giving them one year, says Alderman Dolores Holmes, 5th ward… We can talk it to death or just go ahead and vote and do what needs to be done, she says.

Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd ward, says he is more comfortable with one-year extension.

5-4 against the one-year extension, with Rainey, Burrus, Holmes and Braithwaite in minority. The motion does not pass. Audience applauds loudly.

Calling of the wards.

Braithwaite says he would like to make reference to Administration and Public Works that city staff properly notified Developer Bob King about vacant building fines, after receiving a letter from him about the issue. Wants it voted upon whether the fine is paid or waived.

Rainey says she always thought King was singled out. Says she has also asked City Manager for list of commercial vacant buildings, charges assigned, revenue collected and fines or fees associated with not paying the building fee.

Have we been sending vacant building notices to vacant buildings? Rainey says.

Bobkiewicz says notices to Bob King sent to address where the letter he sent to Braithwaite was addressed from.

Many other alderman wish community a Thanksgiving. Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th ward, notes that is coincides with Hanukkah this year.

Grover commends the Levy Center’s performance of Neverending Story this weekend.

CC goes into executive session at 11:28 p.m. 

*** All other items approved as part of the consent agenda. ***   

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