The second Special Order of Business on the City Council agenda for Monday, Sept. 12, 2022 is SP2, Resolution 80-R-22, Registering the City of Evanston’s Objection to a Roadway Easement Request through Property Owned by the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago and Leased by the City of Evanston. Cutting through the long title, this is a resolution, introduced by Council Member Eleanor Revelle (7th Ward), that the city say “no” to a request by a developer to pave a road, longer than a football field, from Isabella Street across what is now the fairway and green of the 10th hole of the Canal Shores golf course, in order to be able to build five homes on what is now forested open space in Wilmette.
The proposed road is yet another iteration of attempts the developer has been making for a number of years, all of which have been strongly opposed by neighbor and environmental groups and turned down by one or more public bodies, including the City of Evanston in 2017. The land in question on which the developer wants to build was once part of a larger parcel extending north in Wilmette. Houses were built on the northern section in the past, cutting off the northern section, limiting road access from Wilmette. That the southern section is now landlocked is a result of real estate speculators’ own decisions.
A plan to develop without taking public land could have been accomplished through foresight, or through purchase of private property. Instead, the developer wants, in effect, the public to subsidize, through sacrifice of public green and recreational space, the developer’s ability to maximize the number of units built.
Arguably, no development at all should occur on the remaining land. Groups such as the Isabella Woods Facebook Group, Citizens’ Greener Evanston, and the Cook County chapter of the Audubon Society have cited environmental concerns and impact on neighboring properties. Even without those legitimate issues, however, the easement and road would be bad public policy. There is certainly no good Evanston reason for Evanston to aid in paving over public land in Evanston in order to facilitate a private development deal in Wilmette. The addition of hypothetical playground equipment or the arguable characterization of the development as “affordable” (which would facilitate large private tax writeoffs) should not fool anyone into misunderstanding the essential nature of this transaction.
The board of the Central Street Neighbors Association opposed the last version of this proposal and opposes it now. CSNA agrees with the staff recommendation to pass Resolution 80-R-22, and urges the city and Mayor Biss to try to put an end to these attempts to take public trust land for private gain.
Central Street Neighbors Association