Spring may be in the air in some parts of the country, but it has not hit the Evanston City Council agenda as yet. The Planning and Development Committee, which provides approvals for certain building projects, did not have any agenda items and did not meet on March 10. The closest full Council came to a spring-like debate was a discussion of a new Ladd Arboretum multiuse trail – and that debate centered upon the choice of a surface that would allow snowplowing for year-round use.

Historic preservation, and how and when to notify property-owners that their home is “historic,” returned to the Human Services Committee – where it will stay for a while. City staff secured a grant from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to inventory and record at the county level properties designated as landmarks located outside local historic districts.

An effort to officially record landmark status arose out of a dispute last fall initiated by a property-owner who claimed he did not know of his property’s landmark status until the Preservation Commission informed him that he could not change windows without permission. When he bought his home just months before beginning the window project, he said, he had no idea he was buying a landmark and no idea he would have to obtain Preservation Commission approval for window changes or other alterations.

At the time, Alderman Don Wilson, 4th Ward, among others, said that the only way to ensure knowledge was to record instruments indicating landmark status with the recorder of deeds. The City secured a grant that would pay for both the recording and “statements of significance” detailing why a home is a landmark.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, and Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, protested spending any City money at all, even grant money, toward document recording costs. “I don’t mind the City making property-owners aware” of landmark status by recording, she said. “I do object to our paying for it, even a small amount. Send them the bill.”

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz took to the lectern, asking that the Committee hold the matter rather than vote it down, because the grant obtained is rare and “it is very unlikely that we’d ever have this opportunity again.” He said staff would refashion the request and bring it back to the committee for reconsideration.

Solar panels are coming to the Ecology Center and Fleetwood-Jourdain Community Center, donated by Alternative Transportation for Chicagoland. Council gladly accepted the 20KW panels. “This is great – I’m excited,” said Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward.

Council also readily approved the contract for the Arrington Lakefront Lagoon restoration project at Dawes Park. The project will cost about $1.4 million barring cost overruns, but the City’s portion is less than $590,000. The Arrington Foundation contributed $500,000, and an Illinois DNR grant of $400,000 covers the rest. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl publicly thanked the Arrington Foundation for their contribution.

Finally, the City’s illegal drugs ordinances will be re-examined by the Human Services Committee. Northwestern student Marko Pavisic of Students for Sensible Drug Policy presented a brief report to Council calling for illegal-substance-policy reforms, including lower fines for marijuana possession and altered definitions for drug paraphernalia. Alderman Judy Fiske, 1st Ward, officially referred the recommendations to the Human Services Committee for consideration. A robust debate later this year can be anticipated.