The seemingly never-ending journey of the proposed green building ordinance from inception to actual passage will continue, having been held by the City Council, again on Oct. 12. For the second time, the proposed ordinance will be referred to a compromise committee, the members of which are yet to be named, for continued re-working, to be returned to Council at a thus-far undetermined date.
The ordinance, if passed would require new and renovated buildings larger than 10,000 square feet to meet energy saving and other “green” goals established by the United States Green Building Council’s LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification process, silver level. Work began on a green building ordinance in 2007.
The ordinance was poised for passage on the Sept. 29 City Council agenda, having been referred to a “compromise committee” in June. That committee, set up by City staff, was composed of three representatives from the City, three from the business community, and three from the Environment Board. That committee met four times to discuss and revise the ordinance, according to separate memos from City staff and the Environment Board.
Since the Sept. 29 version of the ordinance came from the compromise committee’s revisions, it appeared to have sufficient momentum to come to a full Council vote and pass. During citizen comment, however, Evanston Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jonathan Perman proposed several amendments, even though the Chamber had been represented on the compromise committee. Developer Andrew Spatz also came prepared with a proposed amendment.
A divided Council wrestled with the ordinance and the proposed amendments on Sept. 29, but never seemed close to an actual vote. Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, proposed each of the amendments offered by Mr. Perman and Mr. Spatz, but before he could finish Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, jumped in. Calling the “last minute” action of the Chamber of Commerce “reprehensible” when they were “at the table” that crafted the ordinance, Ald. Burrus sought a vote on the ordinance as drafted, without amendment.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, also sought a vote on the ordinance as drafted. Saying that she attended compromise committee meetings and saw how the process went, she told her colleagues on the Council, “We can trust the process that yielded the ordinance before us.”
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, questioned the make-up of the compromise committee. “Small builders, small developers were not on the committee. But they should have been on the committee,” she said. Ald. Jean-Baptise joined in with criticism of the compromise committee’s formation and membership, but argued that the amendments proposed that night would address the concerns of small builders. He tried to steer discussion back to the substance of his proposed amendments, saying, “We need to get away from criticism of the messenger and try to look at the message. And it comes from a small builder.”
But discussions never evolved to include the actual substance of the ordinance or the proposed amendments; instead, they remained focused on criticims of the process and the proposed amendments. Ultimately, Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, moved that the ordinance be held. Her motion received several quick “seconds,” thus holding the ordinance until the Oct. 12 meeting.
On Oct. 12, before discussion of the ordinance could begin in earnest a major amendment dropped into the debate. This time, Alderman Donald Wilson, 4rd Ward, proposed the amended language. Citing reservations about the application of the ordinance to existing buildings, Ald. Wilson sought to remove renovations and adaptive re-use of existing buildings from the ordinance, leaving only newly constructed buildings in excess of 10,000 square feet to have to achieve LEED certification.
Ald. Burrus restated her opposition to proposed changes coming at the last minute, decrying the influence of “special interests,” “duplicitous” actions, and entering the process “through the back door.”
Ald. Rainey, as she had at the last meeting, again called for the input of small builders into the ordinance revision process. “That’s the special interest group that I’m defending,” she added.
Citing the need of hotels to rehabilitate rooms every three-to-five years, Ald. Fiske expressed concerns voiced to her by hotel management that the ordinance might force each such renovation to go through the LEED process. She urged Council to “take a look at [the ordinance], make sure it is what we want it to be.” Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, agreed, saying, “It [the ordinance] just isn’t quite there yet.”
Ald. Wilson formally proposed his amendment after all aldermen had had their say. Before the amendment could come to a vote, however, Ald. Burrus stepped in, saying, “There’s so much confusion and dissent that I would like to hold this.” Ald. Rainey quickly supplied a second. Ald Burrus then moved that the ordinance return to a new compromise committee for revision, and that aldermen nominate members of that compromise committee for appointment by the mayor, a motion that easily passed.