City staff will ask council members Monday whether they want to save some time by letting planned development and other zoning project reviews skip a step in the current approval process.

A memo from Deputy City Attorney Alexandra Ruggie says the current practice of sending proposals reviewed by the Land Use Commission to the Planning and Development Committee before an ultimate decision by the full City Council isn’t specified in the city code.

The code, she says, calls for issues involving special use permits, unique use and major variation applications and planned developments to go straight to City Council from the LUC for a final vote.

Ruggie says skipping the stop at P&D would let people interested in a proposal avoid having to speak about it at two different meetings on the same night, saving considerable time.

It would also, she says, make it easier to meet a goal the Rules Committee discussed at its June meeting of actually starting City Council meetings at their scheduled time.

Having project proposals reviewed both by P&D and the full Council has been the city’s practice for well over a decade.

Ruggie says another option, likely to save even more time, would be to let the Land Use Commission give final approval to such proposals, with those decisions appealable directly to the Circuit Court.

(The memo doesn’t say so, but that would also let council members avoid the political heat of having to cast a vote on the most controversial zoning proposals. And it would make decisions about who to appoint to the Land Use Commission much more politically significant.)

Ruggie says the existing practice has sometimes left the courts handling zoning appeals confused by the fact that the city isn’t following the review process outlined in its zoning code.

As a third option, she says, the council could amend the city code to match existing practice — and give up on the time savings the other approaches would offer.

The issue is scheduled to be discussed at the City Council Rules Committee meeting at 5 p.m. Monday at the Civic Center.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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1 Comment

  1. Although the Land use Commission may be more competent than the current City Council, allowing an unelected body to be the final arbiters on major development decisions to spare our representatives political heat for votes cast on controversial zoning proposals would effectively cut off Evanstonian’s only recourse to be heard – to vote the bums out!!

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