A City Council agenda that includes such topics as leaf-blowers, nuclear waste, pedicabs, Divvy bikes, and gun control efforts – all alongside a new downtown tower – is sure to make for a varied and spirited evening. Monday night, March 9, did not disappoint.
The Maple Avenue planned development, pedicabs and gun control proposals are covered elsewhere in this issue. But there was plenty left to discuss on other topics.
First, leaf blowers. “There are many silly things I have done” since coming to Evanston, said City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz. “One of them is to stick my nose in the leaf blower issue.” The new ordinance, he said, offers only minor changes to the existing one, making it easier to read and clarifying some ambiguity as to the last day leaf blowers can be legally used in any given year.
Currently, the City Code sets the end date at Dec. 15, but the revision shifts that date to the first Thursday in December “to more accurately coincide with the closure of compost facilities” according to a staff memo.
Mr. Bobkiewicz acknowledged the importance of the leaf-blower issue to many residents. “I have been hearing from many people very frustrated who feel we are doing nothing.” Others, he said, feel they have a right to use leaf-blowers any time to clear their property.
Enforcement of any such ordinance will always be difficult, he said. “The first thing staff asked is, ‘Well, how are we going to enforce this?’” he said.
“I don’t know why we singled out leaf blowers,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. “Lawn mowers are just as loud.” She said that this winter she has even gotten complaints about snow blowers.
The noise ordinance as a whole, a section of which will be revised if the leaf-blower amendment passes, has been problematic, said Mr. Bobkiewicz. “We’re not able to bring any meaningful changes [to the noise ordinance] for similar reasons,” he said. Enforcement and the right of residents to do things like clear their lawn, exercise or listen to music will always get in the way.
Divvy bike stations are roughly located – at least six of the eight, that is – within a two-block radius of the site selected. The exact location will be determined later.
Ald. Rainey protested the location of an Eighth Ward station in the Jewel-Best Buy-Target shopping center on west Howard Street. “It just makes no sense,” she said, asking that the station be moved to Asbury Avenue. “I think Catherine Hurley [the City’s sustainability coordinator] and I can talk this through … and we’ll pick a spot.”
Alderman Peter Braithwaite, 2nd Ward, questioned the location of one station near the Dempster-Dodge shopping center but on Greenleaf Street rather than Dempster Street. Greenleaf Street was selected because bikes are not encouraged on Dempster Street, said Ms. Hurley. The two-block radius around Greenleaf Street allowed for enough flexibility, though, and the station will likely end up much closer to the shopping center than to Greenleaf Street.
The city of Kincardine, Ontario, will be the site of a nuclear waste dump, should Ontario Power Generation’s plans go through. City Council opposes this decision, however, by resolution passed Monday night. The location is too close to Lake Huron, according to opponents of the site. By official resolution, Evanston now joins Chicago and Waukegan, along with about 140 other communities in the United States and Canada, in opposing the project.
On to liquor licenses, with private catering company Feast & Imbibe and Sherman Avenue’s new Blaze Pizza both having new liquor licenses introduced without debate; approval is likely to come in two weeks. The Woman’s Club of Evanston had their liquor license introduced, and the rules suspended for immediate passage. Finally, the CVS on Central had its liquor license approved in a second reading.