The day of reckoning is coming regarding the fate of an approximately 345 year old oak tree, and about two dozen other trees, on the former Kendall College site between Orrington, Colfax, Sherman and Lincoln in the First Ward. A decision bythe property owner and developer, Smithfield Properties, to scrap the 2006 Planned Unit Development (PUD), and rather subdivide the lot as a matter of right under R-1 zoning status, severely limits the ability of the City to dictate whether trees stay or go. Yet controversy remains over the fate of several trees slated for removal.
The oldest tree, an oak that according to citizen Barbara Jane during citizen comment is 345 years old, sits squaring in the middle of a proposed alley on the plat submitted by the developer to City Council. As such,. the tree has an ominous red “X” through in on the plans, meaning it will be removed. Smithfield’s attorney, Steve Friedland, said, “I want to be clear. From our perspective, this is not a PUD. This is a subdivision… In some cases, there is economic value to having a mature tree on a lot. In other cases, there is not…. There are numerous [non-economic] trees on this site. They will be removed.”
During citizen comment, Padma Rao asked whether the change from Kendall’s zoning to R-1 was tied to the PUD passed in 2006, and if so whether scrapping the PUD also scrapped the zoning change. Council could not answer that question Monday night but asked Grant Farrar, Evanston’s corporate counsel, to provide an answer by the next meeting.
In the meantime, the developer, the City, and Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, will continue to negotiate with Smithfield for a way to save as many trees as possible. The fate of the 345 year old oak hangs in the balance.