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On a night dominated by a huge and often angry crowd of landlords and their supporters present to argue against the passage of a new landlord licensing ordinance, City Council still met with a full agenda. Those arriving late did not get a copy, though, as the huge crowd had already snapped them up. Highlights included the design contract for the new lagoon at Centennial Park and a discussion about vacation rentals.
The revamped lagoon, part of a $1.45 million ($900,000 from a private donor and a state grant) project to completely redesign the lagoon and surrounding park, will soon enter the design phase. The project will include aspects of landscaping, mechanical, electrical, plumbing, lighting and fountain design. New patio spaces, walkways and stage space will be included.
The design contract went to Evanston-based Kettelkamp & Kettelkamp with a total cost of $90,735. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said it was “refreshing to see” such a contract going to “a real, live, local small business. They live here; their kids go to school here.”
The Federally Qualified Health Center is one step closer to its Oct. 22 grand opening. Council authorized the execution of a transition agreement that shifts the current Evanston Children’s Dental Clinic to the new FQHC run by Erie Family Health Center. Aldermen shouted over each other to move approval and enthusiastically second the motion. The clinic, said Health Director Evonda Thomas, has provided dental services to Evanston residents since 1967 and will continue to do so under Erie.
Composting bubbled up twice during the night’s meetings. Jewel/Osco will be offering a food- scrap recycling program. Bins placed at Evanston’s Jewel locations will allow residents to drop off scraps, which will be taken to a composting center and turned into bagged soil. Expect the new green bins to appear soon. Also, during Administration and Public Works, two Northwestern students presented survey results from a collaborative composting survey conducted among residents who obtained composting bins. The survey found that 80 percent of those who took City-offered compost bins (converted from old trash cans) actively compost. Suzette Robinson, director of Public Works, said about 600 compost bins were distributed and only about 150 remain. Residents can call 311 to get one of them.
Changes to the City’s zoning ordinances concerning residential height limitations were introduced. The changes limit height to 35 feet at a building’s peak rather than the former “mean” height. They also change the amount of space residents can have in the “half” story, usually a finished attic. The ordinance also allows full-sized building on substandard lots, lots that, because of setback limits, previously could not support full-sized buildings.
Under the law as presented, homes in historic districts or more than 50 years old would be grandfathered in, so that if they burned down or were otherwise damaged, they could be replaced as they existed. Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, and Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, objected and amended the ordinance to grandfather in all existing structures. The matter comes up for final debate and vote in two weeks.
With an ordinance concerning vacation rentals recently scrapped, the matter returned immediately as a discussion item. Residents insisted that existing laws could be used to stop the vacation rental on Ashland Avenue. Over the course of the discussion, different types of vacation rental came out. Ald. Rainey made the distinction between a vacation rental that leases the entire home (the Dobson house at issue earlier) and one that rents out individual rooms within a home (the Ashland property). Any revision to the code needs to be comprehensive enough to distinguish these different types, she said. Existing ordinances regarding rooming houses may be implicated.
As occurred last time, Ald. Wynne and Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, saw the discussion as an opportunity to resuscitate the arguments made against bed and breakfast establishments last year and into this year. Ald. Wilson and Ald. Rainey argued that B&Bs were entirely separate.
By motion presented by Ald. Wilson, Council voted to instruct the legal department to prepare a comprehensive memo presenting options and outlining the legality of restrictions to property rights. “Let’s figure out where the gap is [and how it] needs to be closed,” he said. Until then, vacation rentals will likely continue.
Once again, a discussion about replacing Robert Crown was delayed. The proposals to rebuild the center, with price tags ranging from $20 million to $55 million funded by mostly private financing, are available on the City’s website. Eventually, Council will take up the matter and give some indication of the City’s direction.