Responses From Judy Fiske
Ald. Fiske says she addresses such First Ward concerns as pedestrian safety, maintaining the integrity of residential neighborhoods, Northwestern University development plans, parking, traffic, lighting and effective policing on an ongoing basis in conversations, on email, at quarterly ward meetings and at Northwestern University/City committee meetings.
Ward Issues: Ald. Fiske says she sees two major issues facing the First Ward: balanced development in the downtown area and protection of the lakefront. She says she sees a complementary mix of office, retail, residential and restaurants as key to downtown development.
“We have done well with residential and restaurants, but we need to focus our energy on office and retail,” she says.
She says she has been working with two developers who are ready to begin construction on separate office projects on Chicago Avenue, neither of which would require City money or incentives to build.
As the current chair of the Economic Development Committee, she says she has been working with staff to create a program that would encourage new retail startups in vacant storefronts.
The proposed 38-story residential/retail complex at 708 Church may be built in the next two years. “I opposed it before I was elected, and I oppose it now,” she says.
Plan Commission: Residents in several areas of town have been upset by a ruling by the City last year that developers whose projects had been approved by City Council after a recommendation by the Plan Commission did not have need to appear before the Plan Commission again. In each case, residents said they felt the changes were significant enough to require public input but instead a majority of the Council gave the developers the go-ahead.
Ald. Fiske says, “I believe the correct interpretation of the Evanston Zoning Ordinance is that an application for a major amendment to a planned development must go back to the Plan Commission for its review and public comment. … As an alderman and as a citizen who has worked on many community-based issues over the years, I believe it is important to maintain public trust in the process and to respect and consider the opinions and decisions of the qualified volunteers that serve on our boards and commissions, even if it means a minor inconvenience to a developer. Personally, I will continue to speak out for the process and ask others to do the same.”
Lakefront Protection: The lakefront, says Ald. Fiske, “is our most treasured asset. Regardless of where you live in Evanston, it belongs to you. … My vision is to preserve it for passive recreational uses consistent with the Lakefront Master Plan [approved by City Council in 2008 after a two-year public process]. … We should continue to carefully balance the number of requests for events and work to protect the natural beauty of the lakefront at our doorstep. … A lakefront open to all is a place for passive recreation and enjoyment is consistent with the Lakefront Master Plan.
“With City Council under pressure to consider the lakefront as a revenue generator, she points to the new construction at Northwestern University “as a reminder that more concrete, glass and cars on the lakefront is not the answer.”
She says she “initiated the process in the Planning and Development Committee to develop a lakefront protection ordinance based on the Lakefront Master Plan that would establish policies to guide future development programs for Evanston’s lakefront.”