CSNA Statement on 708 Church St. "Tower" Proposal

The following statement was delivered to the Evanston Plan Commission by CSNA director John Walsh on Oct. 10, 2007.

"I am a director of the Central Street Neighbors Association. We are an organization with official membership of over 150, all in Evanston, and unofficial support from many more than that.

To date, we have not taken many positions on matters outside north Evanston. However, downtown Evanston is everybody's neighborhood. We believe that every Evanstonian and every neighborhood organization can weigh in on downtown, and should.

We favor appropriate development.

We also believe that the future of Evanston and its business districts, and the approval or denial of combined business-residential developments, should be planned, rather than piecemeal.

We also believe that the existing residents and taxpayers are the principal stakeholder in municipal decisionmaking, and that planning should be community-driven rather than foisted upon the community. We have been a full and active partner in the Central Street Master Plan process, and expect to continue to be, hoping not only to impact the future of our own neighborhood, but to improve the model of planning for all of Evanston, so that decisions on neighborhoods and their future are more responsive to what average people in Evanston need and want.

Right now, planning is ongoing for downtown Evanston.

This project is not consistent with existing plans and zoning. That is not our opinion, that is a fact. That is why the applicants are here seeking rezoning and then a very large variance, even from the zoning they seek.

Because of that, we took the pulse of both our board and our general membership. We decided that if we found opinion to be split, that our organization would not take a position.

We did not find a split of opinion. We found virtually no support for this project, in its current form, in the manner in which it is being presented. Many of our members who could not be here tonight urged us to take a stand. Many were quite passionate in their opposition.

Some City leaders may be greatly misjudging community sentiment. As far as we can tell, if it were up to the people of Evanston, this project would not be built.

There are many who object to what this project would do to Evanston, dramatically reshaping downtown and the course of the future, and making it resemble Chicago in more than one way. But just as many resent, quite vigorously, how this project is both avoiding and undermining planning. If passed, as is, it will also undermine trust in City governance.

We listened to and read the statement of the Southeast Evanston Association, which eloquently presented some important objections to the proposed project. We are in general agreement with that statement.

For these reasons, we ask that the Commission vote to deny the applications for map amendment and for planned development as submitted."