Recap: Planning and Development Committee
Here’s a recap of our live coverage of tonight’s Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee meeting.
The meeting was originally scheduled to start at 5:15 p.m., but as the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting has concluded, P&D is now expected to start around 6:25 p.m.
An information kit on the items on the committee’s agenda is available online.
Meeting open at 6:25 p.m.
Aldes. Kelly, Wynne, Nieuwsma, Burns, Suffredin, Revelle and Reid present.
Annie Coakley, executive director of Downtown Evanston, said the organization’s board opposes the convenience store’s special use permit at 518 Davis St.
Neighborhood resident Bonnie Wilson says she is concerned about people parking in the alley to use the convenience store. Says people gathering in front of store could be a problem for neighbors.
Things to consider
P1 – Special use for convenience store at 518 Davis St.
Aldus. Clare Kelly (1st) says the store would cause a negative cumulative effect. Says there are already other convenience stores in the area and that downtown needs more “interesting and rewarding businesses”, not another convenience store. Worried about people rushing to get tobacco.
Aldus. Jonathan Nieuwsma (4th) agrees with Kelly and plans to oppose the proposal.
Aldus. Devon Reid (8th) says the zoning board has recommended approval. Ask why the experts say he meets the standards, but the other board members don’t.
Community development director Johanna Nyden said the final decision rests with the city council.
Said ZBA had some similar concerns. Some of the issues are community values that will only be determined by council members.
Aldus. Melissa Wynne (3rd) says the negative cumulative effect of the business would be strong. Said the alley is very busy with lots of old people walking on the sidewalk due to nearby retirement communities.
Reid says if the city limits the number of convenience stores, it should set a specific limit. It says someone else could apply for a Special Use Permit in a few months and have it approved.
Proposal rejected by a vote of 5 to 2. Suffredin and Reid vote on the losing side.
Point to discuss
PD1 – Discussion on Building Standards Procedures
Angel Schnur, Property Maintenance Supervisor, makes a presentation. Note that the city would normally have five inspectors, but staff is down to two currently. (Also have a customer service representative and Schnur as a supervisor.)
Complaints come either from 311 complaints or from regular rental inspections.
Inspection data is kept in a special database, separate from the city’s 311 system.
Routine rental property inspections take place three to five years.
Says the city has an open property search tool that lets searchers know if there is an open complaint at a particular property.
Dit would like to move to a tiered inspection cycle for properties that don’t have violations…and has several other suggestions for improving the system.
Reid says Schnur has been a big help whenever he’s addressed issues.
He says he needs more open information about breaches, maybe new software solutions. Says could allow neighbors to help each other.
Tina Paden, a landlord, says there is a lack of communication with landlords. Wants to improve the inspection process. Says Cook County Housing Authority has a contractor with iPads to do inspections and can see the results right away.
Says that when the city does inspections, they have to wait to get the report in the mail. Except in an emergency, the owner should be allowed to be present for inspections. Says tenants call the city to complain before asking the landlord to make a repair.
Also complains of tenants tearing up apartments and then complaining to the city.
Carlis Sutton, another owner, says he agrees with Paden. He says there is a double standard in the community. Some owners get violations and some don’t.
“Sick and tired of this double standard,” says Sutton.
Says some inspectors are too aggressive and owners are not properly informed of issues.
Aldus. Bobby Burns (5th) said he appreciated Schnur’s report. “Very good detailed information in there,” he says.
The 311 indicates that the complaints are “complete” when they are not, because the case has just been moved to another database. Said it would be helpful to have all the information in one database and the city is looking for a new CRM to do this.
Wants to reconsider what is considered a vacant property.
Says Property Standards handles a lot of complaints, without enough customer support. Suggests may need to be revamped to get the support it needs.
Nyden suggests making a note about this for the start of the 2023 budget cycle.
Burns suggests the city needs a homeowner’s license to help fund more inspection services.
Revelle says the owner licensing issue is being discussed in a planning and development subcommittee.
Reid suggests there could be synergies and efficiencies if parking enforcement personnel were cross-trained with property inspectors.
Planning and development committee meeting adjourned at 7:20 p.m.
Beginning of the municipal council at 7:25 p.m.