West Side plan still draws flak

Four neighborhood activists renewed objections to the city’s west side plan as the Plan Commission’s Zoning Committee resumed work this week on rules to implement the plan adopted by the City Council nearly a year ago.

Tina Paden, of Paden Properties, who rents to low-income tenants with federal housing choice vouchers, said new development in the area would drive up taxes and make it hard for her to continue to rent to poor people.

Paden, who with relatives owns a building at 1507 Emerson St. just east of the plan boundary, said property taxes on another property she owns went from $10,000 to $16,000 after the building next door was converted to condos.

She said town homes proposed for the area that likely would sell for $425,000 and up are too expensive for area residents.

The zoning process had been halted for several months as the aldermen of the affected wards, Lionel Jean-Baptiste and Delores Holmes, attempted to resolve concerns about the plan.

The plan involves properties along the former Mayfair rail corridor from Simpson Street south to Greenwood Street. With a few exceptions it directly affects only land that is currently vacant or has commercial or industrial uses.

It calls for mostly residential development, plus some retail uses. The bulk of the new residences would be town homes, but some apartments are included along with the possibility of some single-family homes on small lots.

Carlis Sutton, a homeowner living at 1821 Darrow Ave., said the redevelopment proposed for the area is not consistent with the existing nearby homes. He said many of those homes, like his, are very small, as little as 900 square feet.

He said the city should provide funds so homeowners could fix up their properties with tuck pointing and new roofs.

Sutton said Evanston’s 5th Ward has the highest number of foreclosures on the North Shore and that the redevelopment will send that number through the roof.

Roberta Hudson, a homeowner at 1941 Dewey Ave., across from the Fleetwood-Jourdain Recreation Center and the Faith Temple Church, said there’s already too much traffic in her area and redeveloping the now-vacant industrial property behind her home would only make traffic worse.

She argued that, instead of spending money on new housing, the city should provide job training for local residents.

"This shouldn’t be for the benefit of developers, just because they have a block of land and can’t do anything with it," she said.

Housing activist Betty Sue Ester of 2114 Darrow Ave. said the plan doesn’t do enough to encourage existing businesses to stay in the community.

On that front it appeared city officials may have made some progress. An attorney representing the city in negotiations with several business owners said he hoped to have a draft proposal to address their concerns ready for the committee’s next meeting, April 30.

An attorney for the business owners, James Murray, agreed that progress has been made in the discussions, but said some impediments remain and there’s still a "twisty road" to reach a solution.

The city initially proposed changing the zoning for several properties now zoned industrial to residential uses — which would have barred owners of businesses on the sites from expanding.

Properties affected by the issue include Cahill Plumbing and National Awards on Church Street and the Buffalo Joe’s restaurant on Green Bay Road.

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