Residents protest opening public lot

Susan Daker

Several residents of the Fifth Ward made it clear at the Planning and Development Committee meeting Monday night that they do not want Robinson Bus Company to use an area parking lot for commercial purposes, The committee decided to hold the item for further discussion.

The item on the agenda proposed changing the lot located at the Mayfair Right-of-Way between Foster and Emerson streets from a public lot to a commercial lot, which would allow the bus company to park buses and cars there.

Concerned residents at Monday’s meeting said they do not want the commercial lot, citing pollution from buses, increased traffic, and decreased property values among their complaints.

An attorney for the bus company, James T. Murray, said the company would agree only to allow its personnel to park in the lot and not allow buses to park there in order to appease residents.

Speaking about the bus company’s conciliatory effort, Ald. Joe Kent (5th) said he feels there is no difference between bus and car parking. “It’s nothing more than a bait and switch,” Kent said.

Kent agrees with residents of his ward and believes the parking lot would not benefit the community in any way. Kent did not think a zone change was feasible.

Kent motioned to deny at Monday’s meeting, but Ald. Stephen Engelman (7th), chair of the committee, and Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) decided to hold the issue.

Residents at the meeting were upset that the vote was held. “The Fifth Ward is a part of Evanston – we are not stepchildren,” said resident Howard Hunter.

The proposed parking lot will have about 100 spaces. Though the bus company said that all the spots will not be used, residents are still concerned about the extra traffic that the lot will bring.

Roberta Hudson expressed her concerned for the safety of the children in the area. She pointed out that there is a playground across the street from the space and described the area as already being “a parking lot from Green Bay Road to Dodge Avenue everyday.”

According to Kent, there are about 1,600 children who attend school in the area. “Safety matters seem to matter everywhere else,” he said.

Kent believes that this issue would not be contemplated anywhere else in the city except for in his ward, and said he cannot understand why the committee would not vote to deny Robinson Bus Company.

Elsie Liddell, an area resident, said that the aldermen are not as “careful” about the Fifth Ward as they are with other wards.

Kent said that he would rather see items for consideration that benefit the community. He would also like to see the bus company play a more positive, creative role in the community, and he believes a decision against the application would not end talks with the company.

The proposal will be addressed at the next committee meeting on July 23 at 7:00 pm.