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A proposal for a Kensington School day care center to replace the Unity Church building at 3434 Central St. at times became a contentious discussion about traffic and parking during the Wednesday, June 22, meeting of the Evanston Land Use Commission.

No decision on the proposed 22,416-foot facility was made. Kensington day care officials need first to receive an Illinois Department of Transportation ruling on a proposed entrance on Gross Point Road, which is expected in a few weeks.

The Commission’s next hearing on the proposal will be July 27.

Charles Marlas , co-owner and CEO of Kensington Schools, speaks Wednesday, June 22, at the Evanston Land Use Commission (LUC) about a proposed daycare center. Credit: Matt Simonette

Numerous residents voiced opposition or expressed concerns about how local traffic would be affected, especially during the school’s pick-up and drop-off times. The center would be at the angled, highly trafficked corner of Central Street and Gross Point Road.

Kensington School, represented at the meeting by co-owner and Chief Executive Officer Charles Marlas, is seeking allowances for:

  • off-street parking located within both the front yard and the south interior side yard, where parking is not currently permitted;
  • detached accessory use, for refuse enclosure, within the south interior side yard;
  • reducing the required transition landscape strip along the south property from 10 feet to 6 feet;
  • eliminating the required 10-foot wide transition landscape strip along the west property line; and
  • reducing the two-way driveway aisle width from 24 feet to 16 feet.

Marlas said Kensington expects some 165 students to be enrolled at the new location. He told the commission that Kensington had originally drawn up more code-compliant plans requiring fewer city allowances, but the revised plans were “more beneficial to our children, more beneficial to our families and more beneficial to the neighborhood as a whole.”

Commissioner George Halik was skeptical of Marlas’ assertion that the school would utilize “rolling” drop-off and pickup periods, wherein parents would park and escort their children into the school over the course of several hours rather than line up outside. Halik suggested that parents might nevertheless gravitate to the same times, but Marlas reiterated that the system largely works at other Kensington schools.

Kensington, headquartered in Burr Ridge, operates other day care centers in Arlington Heights, Glenview and Elmhurst. 

“Anyone who lives in Evanston knows that traffic in this area is difficult to say the least,” said Commissioner Kristine Westerberg.

Commissioner Max Puchtel was impressed by Kensington’s setup, noting that it “is markedly different…I don’t see as an instinct any problem with [the parking plans].” 

But Commissioner Jeanne Lindwall noted IDOT still needs to weigh in and Kensington needs to honor an easement held by the First Williamsburg Corporation, owners of the cooperative development next door. 

Marlas said that First Williamsburg had rejected his overtures to talk about how to handle those easements, but Peter Roothaan, President of First Williamsburg, who was at the meeting, said he would “welcome a serious conversation” about the matter.

Brian Mahoney, who is executor of his sister’s estate, which includes two of the First Williamsburg units, said that he doubted the validity of the legality of such a meeting since, among other reasons, parties to the easement should have signed off on the application and that Kensington was not yet the owner of the property.

Mahoney also contended that residents did not receive sufficient notice about the project. But Assistant City Attorney Brian George said Kensington was within its rights and Commission Chair Matt Rodgers said the meeting could continue.

Mahoney later said he thought “the legal department’s advice is simply mistaken” and the proposal would likely make the neighborhood’s already bad traffic even worse. 

Resident John Cooper praised Marlas’ plans but added, “We’re missing the big point. There’s a big traffic problem we have to solve and this won’t make it better.”

Halik suggested the Commission issue a continuance. “I like the concept of a day care center. I think we need more of them. But I just can’t see it at this site. … I would at least want to wait for IDOT until we make a decision.”

Rodgers suggested the principals meet to begin discussing the logistics of the easements before the next commission meeting July 27.

 

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