The business of the City continues through the summer when school is out and budget season is in recess. The Township budget remains, and there are always backyard chickens to discuss. Along with the day-to-day, Council’s work can fill up entire evenings even in the summer.
The Human Services Committee, met on July 7 with a slightly revised backyard chicken ordinance. Most of the committee’s prior questions were fully addressed in the revised ordinance, including provisions regarding coops as accessory structures, a network prepared to absorb foster or rogue chickens that stretches from Chicago up into Wisconsin, and an escalating structure of fines for ordinance violators. It was not enough. Concerns over the cost of enforcement kept Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, and Committee Chair Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, on the fence.
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, proposed an increase to the fee structure. The increased fees, she said, could work to limit the number of hens in the community “because there would be very few residents in Evanston who could afford to keep chickens.” Only Alderman Mark Tendam, 6th Ward, fully supported the chicken ordinance. With Alderman Lionel Jean-Baptiste, 2nd Ward, absent, the vote deadlocked at 2-2. The committee decided to keep the ordinance another month for Ald. Jean-Baptiste’s input before deciding whether to send it to full Council.
The Committee next addressed a couple of new ordinances in their very early formative stages. Farthest along was an ordinance allowing mobile food vehicles that was prepared at the request of Campagnola restaurant. City Attorney Grant Farrar described a mobile food vehicle as a “kitchen on wheels” designed for on-site catering. As an ancillary use, the vehicles could set up shop on the street. Committee members generally said they thought the concept intriguing, but wanted to hear from the vehicle owners themselves before proceeding any further.
Dan Garrison of the Evanston Preservation League then asked the committee to consider adopting a tree protection ordinance. “It should not be an absolute right of a property owner to dispose of a tree on private property,” he said. Ald. Fiske said she agreed, citing an incident in Lake Forest in which actor Mr. T removed all the trees from his property. A draft ordinance may be coming soon.
At the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting on July 12, aldermen saw the impact of the downturn in the economy in two different ways. First, an alley-paving proposal came in substantially lower than expected, at about $260,000 rather than the anticipated $370,000. “The cost has come down significantly,” said senior traffic engineer Sat Nagar, adding that private work is not available for contractors right now. Second, Neighborhood Stabilization Program (NSP2) funds for use in buying foreclosed properties have grown to the point that a separate computer system is required to process them. Council approved funding for the same Grant Management System used by Chicago’s NSP2 program, for use in administering Evanston’s $18.5 million NSP2 grant.
The Township budget returned, but aldermen addressed only the Township Assessor’s portion. Ald. Holmes said she found a nearly 100 percent increase too much to take, and moved that it be cut by $20,000. Council agreed unanimously, approving a 75 percent increase, should the budget pass next meeting.
The City’s fiscal year will change begining in January. At the suggestion of City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, the City will move away from a fiscal year that ends in February to one that coincides with the calendar year. After the current year concludes, the City will have a 10-month fiscal year from March through December before the change takes effect.