With most items discussed in earlier committee meetings and a relatively light agenda to boot, City Council breezed through its April 13 meeting in less than two hours.
During citizen comment, residents expressed their concerns over the sale of beer in returnable 22-oz. bottles, the contractors’ coop in the 1817 Church St. building, a lack of candor by police in how officers measured decibels at two exercise businesses and issues surrounding the future of the Harley Clarke mansion.
Betty Esther accused the City Council of “taking the 1817 Church St. building away from the community.” Because the contractors’ cooperative, which purchased the building, has asked for an additional loan to rehab it, Ms. Esther, said, “What should happen is that you should take the building back and sell it on the open market and put the money into the General Fund.”
Peggy Tarr said she has still not received satisfactory information about how the police measure decibels in the noise coming from Revolution X, a spin shop across the street from her apartment complex on Sherman Avenue. She and other residents and some business owners have complained for almost three years about the noise emanating from the exercise studio, which apparently reverberates across the street and several stories high. The studio is set to close in a few weeks.
In addressing the Harley Clarke Mansion issue, Jeanne Lindwall said, “It’s clear that some of you are still intent on selling the Harley Clarke mansion … Council failed to give clear direction to the Harley Clarke Mansion Committee not to sell the property. … If you’re not willing to act for the collective good, perhaps it’s time for a change in leadership.” Criticizing the social media sites to which the City subscribes and which place Evanston high on one of their lists, Ms. Lindwall said, “instead of national meaningless kudos, residents might appreciate having real information and engagement.”
Barbara Janes said the City has not provided requested information about the Clarke mansion. “I request you to direct the City Manager to provide the Harley Clarke Mansion Committee with the information it requires,” she told the Council.
Carl Bova, an engineer by profession, said he thought some of the estimates to repair the Harley Clarke mansion are “grossly exaggerated. Five-and-a-half to six million dollars? I doubt it. The answer is pay-as-you-go. Phase one is the status quo. In phases two, three and four, where the need arises, redevelop. … The City appears to be undervaluing itself or is under-appreciated by staff.”
The City increased, decreased and created liquor licenses, according to the shifting businesses in Evanston: Under a Class P-1 liquor license, beer can be sold in 22-oz. containers for consumption off-site. In February, Sketchbook Brewing Company requested that the City decrease the minimum volume from 32 to 22 oz., a measure that was approved by the City’s Liquor Control Board, and, on April 13, by City Council.
Craft wineries and a wine-shop café were next. The ordinance creating a license for craft wineries, the Class P-3 Liquor license, “harmonize[s] with current craft brewery requirements,” according to the City. It requires the licensees to hold a valid First Class Wine Maker’s license from the State and to “provide an expanded food service where wine is being sold for on-site consumption,” among other things. The City’s annual fee is $4,200.
A wine shop, also called an enoteca, may operate a sidewalk café, if it meets the requirements for a sidewalk café. The City’s fee is $200.
Moving from liquor to medical marijuana, City Council authorized the City Manager to execute a lease of the empty space at 1804 Maple Ave., on the ground floor of the Maple Avenue garage, to Pharmacann, LLC to operate a dispensary there. The lease will begin on May 2 of this year and end on Dec. 31, 2017, which is the expiration of the State’s Compassionate Use of Medical Cannabis Pilot Program Act. The rent is $84,000 per year. The City also proposes to tax growers of medical marijuana by adding a 6% tax, as allowed by State law, on the sale price from the grower to the distributor/dispensary. This tax is in addition to the 7%-per-ounce State sales tax.
The City estimates that with 25 patients per day, each with a 3-ounce limit, the daily wholesale amounts would be $9,375, and the total annual – that is, taxable at 6% – wholesale amounts would be $2.3 million, generating $141,000 in tax revenues.
At the start of the meeting, Council members bade farewell to Ninth Ward Alderman Coleen Burrus, who is leaving her corporate-giving post at Northwestern University for Princeton University. Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl presented Ald. Burrus with a purple hydrangea plant and a plaque recognizing her service to the City.
Alluding to Ald. Burrus’ often vehement and ad hominem speech, Alderman Delores Holmes, 5th Ward, said, “We didn’t get off to a good start but we did come to terms. … I will miss your questions.” Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, said, “We haven’t shared a lot of votes, but it’s always been an interesting discussion.” Tearing up, Eighth Ward Alderman Ann Rainey said, “You’re one of my favorite people … ever – my dearest friend, confidante and mentor.”
Ald. Burrus said she would miss the “talented City staff and the residents of the Ninth Ward. ”
In other action, Council authorized the City Manager to negotiate the sale of the 4,600-square-foot parcel at 1821 Ridge Ave., which abuts property occupied by National Towel Service at 1815 Ridge Ave. The owner of that property wishes to sell it to a developer who plans a multi-story apartment project. When the matter was introduced at the March 23 City Council meeting, the proposal was to sell the property to the owner of 1815 Ridge Ave. However, aldermen said they believed that the City could receive more money if the City Manager could negotiate with other parties, including the potential purchaser, rather than the present owner, of 1815 Ridge Ave.