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City Council members barreled through a fairly long agenda at their Nov. 14 meeting, stumbling over a few Economic Development Fund expenditures.
Waiting to Inhale. An amendment to the City’s marijuana ordinance was approved for introduction without Council discussion. The amended ordinance would remove discretion for possession of 10 grams or less and require all such cases to proceed through City’s administrative adjudication program, which does not carry with it a permanent criminal record. During the citizen comment portion of the Council meeting, Betty Sue Ester requested that community service and drug-counseling be mandated along with payment of a fine for violations of the ordinance. None of the aldermen picked up the suggestion, but the administrative adjudicators have the authority to require community service.
The Ninth Subway. Aldermen approved liquor licenses for Old Neighborhood Grill, Austin’s Tacos, Taco Diablo and Carmen’s of Evanston. They also approved the consumption of alcohol in “viewing auditoriums.”.That is, folks who purchase alcoholic drinks at the bar/café in the movie theater complex on Maple Avenue can take them into the auditorium for special events or to watch either PG-13 or R-rated movies.
This new Carmen’s, owned by Placido Quintero and Efrain Lopez, owners of Las Palmas restaurant, will be located on Chicago Avenue just south of Dempster Street. Council also approved an additional Subway sandwich shop at 724 Clark St., to the 1133 Emerson St. Subway sandwich shop operators. Asked how many Subway shops there are in Evanston, owner Suhas Patel replied that this one would be the “eighth or ninth.” Asked whether he planned to close his Emerson Street shop, he said he did not, adding that he would not be opening the Clark Street shop if he did not think it would be successful.
CDBG Funds to the South. Aldermen also approved a reallocation of $131,453 in Community Development Block Grant funds that remained from the present year. The funds were directed to the City’s South Neighborhood Revitalization Strategy.
Economic Development Expenditures. Aldermen ultimately approved the following expenditures from the City’s Economic Development Fund: $77,000 to Downtown Evanston (formerly known as Evmark), the downtown property owners’ association; $31,000 to Corrado Cutlery to expand and locate to 716 Main St.; $20,000 (the second installation of a promised $40,000 grant) to OMS Evanston LLC to help redevelop the property on the southeast corner of Main Street and Chicago Avenue; and “no more than” $10,900 for façade improvements to the property at 604-06 Davis St.
Alderman Donald Wilson, 4th Ward, said he objected to some of these grants because they did not appear to be “need-based. … I would feel bad about looking at businesses … along Main Street that I’ve been talking to for two years and saying, ‘They got money; you got a banner.’” He added, “This is not a reflection on the businesses nor on the owners [but] given our economic environment and the economy, we should be developing a more needs-based policy. Economic Development is important, but I don’t see us taking a position that is needs-based.”
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, disagreed, saying, “We [Council members] identified economic development as a primary goal. Should we wait for economic development to come to us? We have a number of tools to make things happen. There is a big role to play – inviting in businesses that want to come to Evanston.”
An intense budget session followed the regular Council agenda as a special order of business, as aldermen continued to try to hammer out a balanced budget packed again this year with job and service cuts and fee and tax hikes.