Council to consider resident concerns about Kendall rezoning

Chris Kirkham

Evanston City Council tonight could exclusively designate Kendall College’s former property for single-family homes — a move that would halt the current owner’s proposal for a townhouse development on the land.

Kendall sold its property to Chicago-based developer Smithfield Properties in early November, sparking resident concern over what type of property Smithfield might construct in place of the college, which borders Northwestern’s campus on the west side of Sheridan Road.

At a series of city meetings from November to January, residents living near Kendall pushed for the property to be shifted to single-family residential use. The area is currently designated for university use under the city’s zoning laws, meaning City Council would have to rezone the area to allow Smithfield to go forward with any new projects.

Smithfield principal Robert Buono presented a plan for a 117-unit townhouse development to residents and aldermen at the Jan. 12 Planning and Development Committee meeting, but more than 30 residents protested the proposal, which they said would burden the neighborhood with traffic and congestion problems. For Buono’s development to proceed, the council must designate the area for much larger residential use.

Buono met with residents to discuss a compromise at a special committee meeting on Jan. 20, at which he suggested an alternate design. The new proposal would include an outer ring of single-family homes with a townhouse complex in the center.

But Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th), whose ward includes the Kendall property, said that proposal still would not fall under single-family zoning regulations. Tisdahl said Smithfield has not yet presented a plan that she would accept, but she said there still is a possibility for compromise with the developers.

“I think it’s very possible that the developer could come up with a plan that would work for the community and solve some of the problems,” Tisdahl said.

Though the council is scheduled to vote on the matter tonight, Tisdahl said aldermen always have the option of delaying a decision.

Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) said he dislikes unrestrained growth in the area, but he said residents near Kendall were being unreasonable in demanding single-family zoning.

“You’re going to alter the use of that property significantly and you need some amendments to zoning,” he said. “But does that mean that you get a pack of people out there saying, ‘This is what you’re going to build?’ I think that’s pushing it way too far.”

Prior to the full council meeting, the Planning and Development Committee will discuss extending two building bans in the Fifth and Sixth wards. Both moratoriums have been in place since summer, but Moran and Ald. Joseph Kent (5th) said they hope the bans could eventually lead to conservation districts in those wards.

The Planning and Development Committee will meet at 6:30 p.m. and the Administration and Public Works Committee will meet at 7 p.m. The full council will convene at 8:30 p.m. All meetings are held at the Evanston Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.