Zoning amendments that would implement the West Evanston plan will remain in the City’s Planning and Development Committee until at least Dec. 8, the last regularly scheduled City Council meeting of the year. There are two parts to the amendments – first, approving two new zoning districts, an overlay district and a transitional district, and second, amending the zoning map to change the base zoning district designations for several properties within the plan.

Hammered out almost block-by-block by West Side residents and business owners, City staff, Plan Commission members, aldermen and other interested parties, the plan provides a framework for development of parts of West Evanston between Simpson and Greenwood streets primarily along Dodge Avenue. It is nearly but not wholly coterminous with the West Evanston tax-increment financing (TIF) district.

The five principles that guided the plan, according to a memo from City planners to Interim City Manager Rolanda Russell, are to reconnect the community (currently divided by the berm of the old Mayfair railroad spur), increase the walkability of the neighborhood, provide a life-cycle of housing choice and provide feasible, neighborhood-scaled space.

There are several aspects to the proposed new zoning. Although the zoning district will change, existing businesses will be able to continue as “legally conforming” and will be able to expand within certain parameters, said City Planner Susan Guderley.

Second, new structures will not be subject to the City’s present zoning code but instead be subject to new regulations that incorporate guidelines and regulations built into the plan itself for such things as height, density, setbacks, siting on the lot, parking, façade restrictions and the review process. This zoning process, called form-based zoning, is used in a few areas of the City’s Central Street Plan, said Ms. Guderley. It is also the zoning recommended for the City’s downtown plan.

Form-based zoning replaces the planned-unit development (PUDs) process which is very time-consuming, said Leslie Oberholzer. It is wasteful of developers’, City staff’s and residents’ time. The West Side zoning amendments “neither requires nor permits” PUDs within the district.

Some residents objected to the plan, saying they felt that the plan would put long-time residents in danger of losing their homes to gentrification and jeopardize current businesses.

Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, said, “There are some rational concerns, some concerns about gentrification. Folks may lose their right to be there, their opportunity to be there, but what happens is determined by what the market will bear. At the City we have to maintain an equitable perspective on development in any part of the City, … and assure everybody that the Council is concerned about the entire City.”

Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said, “It’s been a journey, and rough in spots. Employment, youth, transportation, social services, economics – all these are part of the West Side plan, and all have to be addressed.” She added that the zoning proposals “reflect the majority voice for the plan.”

Alderman Jean-Baptiste and Alderman Holmes have scheduled a neighborhood meeting on the zoning proposals for 7 p.m. on Dec. 2 in the Civic Center. The Planning and Development Committee will resume discussion at its Dec. 8 meeting.

Mary Gavin is the founder of the Evanston RoundTable. After 23 years as its publisher and manager, she helped transition the RoundTable to nonprofit status in 2021. She continues to write, edit, mentor...