Politics As Usual: P&D Ignores Plan Commission, Citizens

In a surprise move, the Planning & Development Committee reversed the majority recommendation of the Plan Commission and, more importantly, the seemingly overwhelming consensus of the community; to instead promote their vision for Downtown Evanston.

In what appeared to be a play right out of the worst of Chicago politics, the majority of Aldermen clumsily undid 18 months of thoughtful planning in order to benefit a single developer.

Luckily Roberts Rules of Order was written out of most committee meetings, so it was full steam ahead for the hat trick.

Cliff Notes version: Ald. Rainey wants the Central Core put back in the plan at 42 stories. While some Aldermen objected, Ald. Wollin "softened" the blow by resurrecting a rejected plan of PC Chair Woods to cap the Central Core at 365 feet. Rainey allowed her motion to be amended. After learning that 365 feet may "only" be 33 stories, Ald. Holmes somehow got the final vote to 35 "stories", which is actually closer to 385 feet. For comparison, the Chase Bank building is a mere 277 feet and is the tallest building in downtown Evanston. The vote passed with only Ald. Wynne and Bernstein voting against.

The next order of business was to set the base or "by-right" height of the block. Ald. Wynne motioned that it be 165 feet, which was the initial height set by Plan Commission. Although her motion was seconded and already under discussion, Ald. Jean-Baptiste tried to "read" Ald. Rainey's mind and argued that her original motion implied a base height as tall as the maximum height of the rest of the core. Over objections, Ald. Moran decided that he would no longer entertain Ald. Wynne's motion and agreed with Ald. Jean-Baptiste. He forced a vote which put the base height of the block at approximately 25 stories.

That is just the highlight of the meeting, there were many more "gems" from our elected officials who seemed to be working solely for the interests of developers.

Just for the record, here is how the votes went (you can vote your conscience in the April elections).

In SUPPORT of 35 Stories on the Fountain Square block:
Ald. Wollin, Ald. Jean-Baptiste, Ald. Holmes, Ald. Moran, Ald. Rainey, and Ald. Hansen.

In OPPOSITION to the motion were:
Ald. Wynne and Ald. Bernstein.

Ald. Tisdahl was absent.

I'll just sit here and shake my head in disbelief. Don't forget, as soon as the Council approves the "Plan", they can take the Klutznick tower proposal off the table. While the lame proposal is currently at 38 stories with no visible public benefits, I'm willing to wager that there will be some attempt to push the envelope and approve the project. If that happens, I see a large vacant lot right in the middle of downtown Evanston where 708 Church used to be.


Sounds like I need to put my Stop the Tower yard sign back out.

A defiant group of Aldermen tonight attempted to pass the Downtown Plan through P&D without even putting their questionable changes in an official document. With the assistance of Ald. Jean-Baptiste and Ald. Moran, Ald. Rainey moved adoption of the Downtown Plan as ammended by the Committee. The motion would move approval of a plan that isn't even on paper. What's the rush?? Are certain developers knocking on your door??

While Ald. Rainey's motion was eventually changed through the help of Ald. Wynne and Bernstein, it just goes to show how desperate some members of Council are to bow down to the feet of development for the sake of height rather than best use.

As it stands right now, the consultants will incorporate the proposed changes into a document which will be voted on at the February 9 Planning & Development meeting and then at Council.

Unfortunately, good taste prohibits me from using the language appropriate for a "core" group of our elected officials.