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Mostly positive developments greeted City Council members at their Sept. 8 meetings, which began with Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl’s announcing, “The Mayor is in the house.” Former Mayor Lorraine Morton, sitting on the first row in support of Keys to the City recipients, acknowledged the crowd.
Positives began with the acknowledgement of Team Evanston’s Under 14 premier team, winner of the National President’s Cup. Chute Middle School students and teachers then presented their “Inside Out Art” project.
Police officer promotions rounded out the early meeting announcements. A council chamber full of proud police officers, kids, families and teachers set the tone for the evening.
At Administration and Public Works, frequent City critic Junad Rizki demanded to know where the Peckish Pig patio expenditures appeared on the bills list. City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz said the project was a “receivable” and not a bill. Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said Peckish Pig owed the City over $18,000 and she expected the invoice to be paid in a timely manner.
Council granted a special use to 1413-15 Howard St., allowing the developer to build residential units on the ground floor. Residential must be above commercial in B2 business districts, but the ground floor is far more accessible. The developer plans six handicap-accessible units, a goal Council readily agreed warranted the special-use permit. The matter passed easily, and Council suspended the rules to allow the permit to issue immediately.
Likewise, Council readily embraced the proposed Goldfish Swim School at 2008 Dempster St., a commercial indoor recreational facility. The school will offer swim lessons to kids aged 4 months through 12 years. The location has ample parking and sits across the street from the Team Evanston indoor soccer facility. Planning and Development passed the matter without debate and Council suspended the rules to again allow the permit to issue immediately.
Way back in 2003, the Hotel Orrington proposed constructing 30 residential units above their parking lot at 1710 Orrington and 1717-25 Sherman as a part of their hotel renovation. The hotel portion went forward as planned, but the Residential Phase was never completed. The original 2003 ordinance gave the hotel five years to begin construction.
Monday night, City Council introduced an ordinance that will, if passed, allow the hotel another two years, through Oct. 11, 2016, to pull construction permits on the project. Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, distinguished the extension request from the request by proposed developers of the 708 Church St. tower project by pointing out that Phase One went forward as planned. She also noted that the hotel has a new owner and should be given time.
Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, agreed. The construction, if started in October 2016, will in theory use plans that are almost 13 years old. The plans, however, under the original ordinance, must be reviewed by the Plan Commission for compliance with the Downtown Plan adopted in 2009. With so many moving parts, it is safe to assume the project will be carefully reviewed before it goes forward.
A provision indicating that the extension, if granted, is the last extension is expected to be added when the matter returns for final vote in two weeks.
Finally, Council approved funding for the Evanston Cradle to Career initiative. When reading the agenda item on the consent agenda, Ald. Rainey mistakenly referred to it as “the cradle to grave initiative.” With that, a night full of positives ended with a chuckle.
Not every meeting will be so pleasant – budget season is coming and Mr. Bobkiewicz has stated he expects City departments to cut spending by 3%, cuts that must be found in the coming months.