The request by National-Louis University to allow a dormitory at 1620 Central St. as a special use under the City’s zoning code was held over at the July 14 City Council meeting at the request of Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward. National-Louis would like to house its PACE program for college students with multiple disabilities in the building. To address neighbors’ concerns, National-Louis made adjustments to the property, such as installing new windows.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said she would not support the special use because National-Louis would take the property off the tax rolls and National-Louis would not make a payment in lieu of taxes to the City. She said she believed the program was worthwhile and that the students would make good neighbors. She said, though, “They are like my family; we are good neighbors, too. The only difference is we pay taxes.”
Alderman Elizabeth Tisdahl, in whose 7th Ward the property lies, said she had asked National-Louis to make a payment in lieu of taxes, but they declined to do so. She added, “Taxes for National-Louis are a wash. They just returned [their former campus on Sheridan Road, part in Evanston and part in Wilmette] to the tax rolls.”
Alderman Steve Bernstein, 4th Ward, said, “The PACE program is what Evanston is [about]. We are, or purport to be, our brother’s keeper.”
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, said she agreed with both Ald. Bernstein’s and Ald. Rainey’s points, but added, “We have to figure out some type of policy by which we curb the removal of our property from the tax rolls.”
Alderman Anjana Hansen, 9th Ward, said she does not take taxes lightly, but it’s not the sole issue here.” She added she agreed with Ald. Tisdahl and Ald. Bernstein.
Ald. Jean-Baptiste said he requested a holdover to allow time for interim City Manager Rolanda Russell to “sit down with National-Louis and negotiate a payment in lieu of taxes.”
Mayor Lorraine Morton said to the aldermen, “Think about the implications of what you are about to do. You’re setting up a precedent that ‘if you can’t pay taxes you can’t be here.’”