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A proposed Chase Bank branch, complete with a drive-through, seeking to replace the defunct gas station at the intersection of Gross Point and Crawford in northwest Evanston, cleared a major hurdle on Oct. 22 over the protests of a number of area neighbors. Council voted to introduce a zoning amendment that will allow the drive-through there. The project has been in development and review for nearly a year.
Alderman Mark Tendam, whose Sixth Ward includes the site at issue, said a core group of neighbors has been opposed to the project from the outset. He called for “an up-or-down vote” on the zoning amendment so that the developer can decide whether to move forward or abandon the project entirely. Council then voted 8-1 to introduce the amendment. It will return in two weeks for a vote.
If the zoning amendment passes, the project must still go through the complete planning process. Plans submitted as part of the zoning amendment process may or may not be final plans, and Ald. Tendam says, “there will be plenty more meetings” to discuss the project.
The concerns voiced by neighbors centered upon two primary objections: first, traffic patterns created by the drive-through flowing onto Gross Point Road, and, second, the proposed partial use as a parking strip of a parcel currently zoned residential. The parcel, under the current incarnation of the plans, will be deeded to the City, the parking spaces leased by Chase Bank and the remainder converted to park space.
At the Planning and Development Committee meeting, about a dozen residents spoke against the project. Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, responded to them by saying the bank seemed a less impactful use than another gas station. “I’m trying to balance what could go there” against the bank, he said, and “it’s a little bit of a challenge [but] it’s my inclination to go forward.”Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, remained opposed to the project. As in earlier meetings, her primary concern was that the proposal included the loss of an alley. “I consider alleys to be really sacred, especially in Evanston, where we have so many commercial properties abutting residential.
“I’ll be voting no on this,” she added. “I also don’t think we should be changing our zoning ordinance for one particular parcel.” Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, shared the “spot zoning” concern referenced by Ald. Fiske. In the end, however, she decided to vote to introduce the ordinance.
Alderman Melissa Wynne, 3rd Ward, expressed concern over changing the Central Street master plan that is less than five years old. “I’ll vote to introduce it, but I am not sure I will support it ultimately,” she said.