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A meeting night dominated by discussion of the Harley Clarke mansion, an issue resolved before the first citizen stepped to the podium to address it, began rather slowly on Monday, July 22. Tension built over the hours, but most everyone waited for the main event. Nevertheless, the undercard issues still packed plenty of fireworks. It was an eventful night.
Leading off was the conclusion of the long, hard battle to construct Grandmother Park, a tot lot at 1125 Dewey. Long opposed to the project, Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, found another problem with the park when the initiative chose Nature’s Perspective to complete the construction work based upon a bid that exceeded the low bidder, Evanston Community Builders, by some $32,000.
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, pointed out that all construction money came from private donations, not City money. “CDBG money goes toward the acquisition of the land [only],” he said.
Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said that the bidding process showed that Nature’s Perspective was in the ballpark. “I did not support the project initially,” she said, “but they did what they said they would do” by raising the money necessary to complete construction. In the end, a resolution to create the park passed, with only Ald. Burrus voting no. Construction will begin shortly.
Council rejected a request made by the Northwest Center Against Sexual Assault to occupy space in the Civic Center rent-free so it could offer counseling services to victims of sexual assault. “Did you approach the high school about free space?” asked Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward.
“It’s not about you, it’s about the process,” added Ald. Burrus. “A lot of not-for-profits want free space.”
Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, praised the work done by the center, but agreed that free rent was not something the City was willing to offer. Council may be “willing to engage in some discussions about” offering space to the center provided the center would be open to “paying some rent.” The Administration and Public Works Committee voted to send the matter to staff to draw up a possible lease.
At the Planning and Development Committee, the expansion of the North Shore Residence facility at 1611-1629 Chicago Ave. passed, but not without controversy over whether the senior center should be required to offer “affordable housing” as a condition of its obtaining approval of the expansion under the City’s Planned Development Ordinance. Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, said that the affordable housing requirement only applied to “owner-occupied” units and not to rentals. “We can’t just make stuff up,” he said.
Ald. Rainey disagreed, saying, “Yes, we can make things up … but I think it’s unnecessary in this instance.” She said she thought the rooms were already “a great deal, and I think it’s affordable.”
Ald. Holmes said the affordable component should be included in the ordinance. She was in the minority. Of two draft ordinances presented on the issue, Council voted to introduce the one without the affordable unit requirement. Such a requirement could still get added back in when the matter returns for final vote within the next two weeks.
At Council, after the 63 persons signed up to comment on Harley Clarke were finished, Council was presented with an audit report on Evanston Township. City Clerk Rodney Greene objected to Council hearing the report without convening as the Township Board, an act that would have required proper public notice. The audit revealed little other than a few potential ways in which the City and Township could work together. Council took no action on the report and did not even officially accept it into the record.
With that, Council adjourned late in the night. With Harley Clarke off the agenda for the foreseeable future and the Noyes-Piven negotiations tabled for the time being, the City awaits the next pressing issue.