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Editor’s note: This story has been updated.
The Evanston Land Use Commission, on Wednesday, July 13, refused to recommend a City-initiated map amendment that would have removed several parcels from the more restrictive zoning laws in the oCSC, the Central Street Corridor Overlay District.
Commissioners voted down the proposal 5-1, with Chairman Matt Rodgers being the dissenting vote. The City Council’s Planning and Development Committee next hears the proposal, followed by the entire Council.
The proposal, discussion of which was continued from the Commission’s June 22 meeting, would have supposedly eased logistical burdens for business owners within the overlay district looking to make various changes to their properties.
The overlay is a term that refers to additional zoning rules, which are layered or overlaid, on top of existing regulations. The overlay in this area was put in place as years ago when officials and neighbors were trying to balance development with both neighborhood needs and traffic flow difficulties. Businesses in the overlay wanting to make significant changes usually face a months-long approval process. Removing the overlay means those businesses’ parcels would be in zoning requiring fewer variances, thus reducing the time needed in the City’s approval process.
City Zoning Administrator Melissa Klotz estimated that removing the overlay would remove enough bureaucratic procedures to halve the City review process, which now runs at least six months.
City officials said at the June 22 Land Use meeting that staff had floated the proposal at the suggestion of Council member Larry Suffredin (Sixth Ward). The parcels in question were 2600 Gross Point Rd., 2608-2620 Gross Point Rd./2620 Crawford Ave., 2628-2636 Gross Point Rd. and 2600 Crawford Ave.
Resident Megan Lutz, who opposed the proposal and asked for a continuance at the June 22 meeting, said Wednesday that Suffredin was in fact opposed to the proposal and had written a letter to that effect.
Land Use Commission Chairman Matt Rodgers said that Suffredin’s letter would not weigh into the Commission’s deliberations since it had been received late, but would likely be factored into the decisions of the Planning and Development Committee and City Council.
Lutz, who had collected 171 signatures from residents for a petition against the proposal, emphasized that the current zoning regulations for the neighborhood were the result of much deliberation. She added that residents were especially concerned with the potential for drive-throughs complicating the highly traffic intersection of Gross Point Road, Crawford Avenue and Central Street. Lutz called the map amendment “arbitrary and capricious.”
During deliberations, Commission members asserted that the area’s traffic and pedestrian access indeed warranted further study. Commissioner Jeanne Lindwall called it one of Evanston’s “more complicated, difficult intersections,” while Commissioner Kiril Mirintchev, who lives nearby, similarly noted that it was “bad for pedestrians and bicyclists.”
Nevertheless, Mirintchev said removing the overlay was “not the solution.”
Rodgers said that he was “not a fan of overlay districts” as a principle and was the only commissioner to speak in the proposal’s favor, though he acknowledged he was going to be outnumbered in the final vote.