Evanston’s City Council Monday advanced a plan that would ease restrictions on some ground-floor office uses in business districts as a way to fill spaces left vacant by the pandemic.
The proposal from the city’s Community Development Department would eliminate extra parking now required for medical office uses in many business zones.
Medical offices would then be subject to an administrative review process that typically takes two to three weeks, rather than the city’s special use review process that can take three to four months.
However, another part of the staff proposal would tighten restrictions on office uses in some other districts, shifting them from permitted uses to administrative review uses.
In a memo, Zoning Administrator Melissa Klotz said that would “allow potential parking issues to be addressed on a case-by-case basis while maintaining a quick yet transparent zoning process.”
She added that the new process also would permit the city to adjust for the ebb and flow of the economic market and permit “quick approval of more ground-floor office uses when vacancies are high while maintaining the ability for deferral or denial when vacancies are lower and ground-floor commercial space should be reserved for more retail-oriented uses.”
The immediate driver for the proposed changes, city staff says, has been a flood of requests for COVID testing sites.
They’re considered medical offices under the zoning code and would require rarely-available additional parking in many business districts under the existing city rules.
The changes were recommended for approval by the Land Use Commission last month.
They were approved unanimously by the Planning and Development Committee Monday night with only minimal discussion and approved for introduction on the City Council’s consent agenda.
Final approval is scheduled for the Council’s March 28 meeting.
In other Planning and Development matters Monday, the Council gave final approval to the planned office tower on the former Burger King site at 1740 Orrington Ave. and approved for introduction parking variations to permit addition of 35 apartments to the upper floors of the Varsity Theater building.