The Salvation Army’s plan to buy the Gordon Foods Service Store at 2424 Oakton St. was placed on hold temporarily Tuesday by Evanston’s Design and Project Review Committee.
Committee members voiced concerns about possible trash problems from items dropped off at the store overnight when it’s not staffed.
Community Development Director Johanna Nyden said she used to live in the neighborhood on Chicago Avenue where the army had a resale shop years ago.
“It was a disaster,” she said. People would come at night and drop stuff off, then other people would come by and pick through the goods, and “you’d see stuff strewn as far away as the Main Street train station” two blocks away.
Salvation Army Major Kendall Mathews said there would be somebody on site seven days a week to accept donations and that he planned to have security cameras on the drop off location overnight when the store was not staffed.
But Nyden said she didn’t see how cameras would deter anybody from dumping items after hours.
Northwestern University students who are leaving town after graduation aren’t going to come back the next day to drop off during business hours, Nyden said.
Mathews said he wasn’t around when the Chicago Avenue store was in operation and wanted to apologize for any problems then.
“We don’t want any complaints from any of the cities that we serve in,” he added. He said he’s worked in the Army’s Chicago operation for two years now.
“There’s a new plan, a new administration, it’s forward thinking and we have a new mentality. I would say give us a chance and look at the operation of our other stores in the area.”
City arborist Michael Callahan asked what store staff would do to prevent the spread of bedbugs.
Mathews said the store wouldn’t accept mattresses. “We buy all new mattresses,” he said.
Property Standards Supervisor Angel Schnur asked whether there would be washers and dryers in the store to clean donated clothing and make sure it didn’t have bedbugs.
Mathews said most of the clothes they receive have been washed and folded by the donors.
But Schnur responded that it would be important to at least have a dryer installed — because if the clothes were heated sufficiently that would at least kill the bedbug eggs.
Mathews said that was a good suggestion and he’d consider making it a new policy for all the army’s stores.
City Engineer Lara Biggs said, “I think we’re all aware that the Army’s mission here fits very well with City of Evanston policies” about reusing items and reducing waste, and that the store could also provide a chance for residents to obtain job skills.
But she said the city needed to see a written plan for how to address the concerns about the store’s operation and impact on the neighborhood.
She moved to hold the request until detailed plans were submitted in response to the staff concerns and the committee voted unanimously to do that.
After DAPR makes its recommendation, the special use request for the resale store will also face review by the Land Use Commission and a final vote on approval by the City Council.
The planned Evanston store is intended to replace the army’s current resale shop on Oakton Street in Skokie.