Editor’s note: This story has updated to clarify that Cade Sterling’s quoted comments were made after the public meeting.

The Preservation Commission, in a quick meeting Tuesday, Dec. 6, unanimously passed a new long-range plan with key goals for historic preservation and community engagement.

Members of the Preservation Commission meeting Tuesday. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

Cade Sterling, a city planner in the commission, called the Preserve 2040 Long-Range Work Plan ambitious, particularly in terms of its goals, but also its scope.

“I think the most ambitious goals are those that relate to climate resilience, maintaining affordability and conservation districts,” Sterling said after the meeting. 

The 58-page plan lays out a number of target action steps, including improving the survey and documentation of Evanston, changing zoning and permit regulations, and creating more transparency between the commission and the community.

While the commission does not have decision-making power over all of the above, Sterling said he hopes the plan can help start a dialogue with stakeholders that do, such as the Planning and Zoning Division or the City Council.

The plan, which passed by a 10-0 vote, is closely tied to the city’s Climate Action and Resilience Plan, affordable housing program and economic development goals. It has a nearly 18-year timeline.

It calls for the re-survey of the Ridge and Northeast historic districts, which have been not been surveyed since 1984 and 1999, respectively. Other key initiatives of the plan relate to surveying the city’s park system and business districts.

This is also the primary guide to the commission’s oversight and administration of Evanston’s historic preservation program. “Preservation is inherent to sustainability,” Sterling said.

Focus on education, transparency

Commissioners at the Tuesday meeting asked how community members can engage with the commission and utilize its data, and also discussed provisions in the 2040 plan.

“I’d love to have more education around an individual homeowner coming in front of this commission,” Commissioner Amanda Ziehm said. She added that some residents who live in a historic district told her they found engaging with the commission to be “daunting,” or at times expensive, when it comes to hiring architects or engineers.

“Zoning is the first step for a project,” said Carlos Ruiz, city planner. “Maybe that’s part of the education we need to impart.” While the city has regulations on permits and zoning, the commission hopes to make it easier to answer the question, “What should you be aware of when you live here?”

From left, Cade Sterling, city planner; committee chair Susan Reinhold; Carlos Ruiz, city planner; and Commissioner Aleca Sullivan. Credit: Manan Bhavnani

“Those things should be completely transparent, and I think there’s a lot of initiatives in the plan that would help achieve that,” Sterling said after the meeting. The plan also prioritizes filling gaps in documentation of groups and communities that have not been adequately represented.

“The thing that people will hopefully see in the very near future is these incentive programs” that will help residents better maintain their homes and provide information about what it means to live in a historic district, Sterling said.

“I think the idea is that you’re improving built outcomes, improving general quality of life and making sure that preservation stays relevant in the future,” Sterling said.

Manan Bhavnani

Prior to joining the RoundTable, Manan Bhavnani covered business and technology for the International Business Times, with a focus on mergers, earnings and governance. He is a double Medill graduate, with...

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