Three longtime Evanston residents have filed suit against the City of Evanston in an effort to stop the construction of a seven-story parking garage on Evanston’s lakefront and to save a half-acre forest at the north end of one of the City beaches.

In a lawsuit filed on Jan. 11 in Cook County Circuit Court, Evanston residents Matthew Mirapaul, Ann Jennett and Mitchell Harrison ask the court to order Evanston to rescind its approval for Northwestern University to build a visitor center and 435-space parking garage at 1841 Sheridan Road. The parking garage is planned for the southeast corner of the NU campus, adjacent to Clark Street Beach.

“The lakefront is Evanston’s most precious natural resource, as well as the City’s most appealing feature,” Mr. Mirapaul said. “We must do everything we can to protect it. … But the City Council overturned a well-reasoned decision by the Preservation Commission and ignored strong community opposition to the project. Unfortunately, our only remaining recourse is the courts. “

The lawsuit alleges that the City Council acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in overturning the Preservation Commission’s decision to deny a Certificate of Appropriateness for the parking garage. The suit also alleges that the structure violates the City’s zoning ordinance and is contrary to longstanding City planning documents.

The Evanston Preservation Commission voted on Oct. 16 to deny a Certificate of Appropriateness for the parking garage. On Oct. 22, the City Council voted 6-2 to overturn the Commission’s ruling.

On Nov. 12, the Council voted 6-1 to approve an ordinance that allows NU to build an access road to the parking garage on City land. To do so, a half acre of mature woodland at the north end of Clark Street Beach – which serves as a wildlife habitat, especially for birds on an active migratory flyway – will allegedly be destroyed.

In 2008, the Evanston City Council unanimously voted to enact a Lakefront Master Plan, its first goal to “Establish practices and policies to preserve and enhance the lakefront’s natural environment.” Mr. Mirapaul and Ms. Jennett were active in the creation of the Lakefront Master Plan.