Meeting for Third Ward eyes marina controversy

Jim Martinho

Meeting for Third Ward eyes marina controversy

Residents also air sewage, zoning concerns at first forum in 2 years

By Mike Cherney

The Daily Northwestern

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) answered questions from residents on issues ranging from recent zoning changes to sewer construction, even addressing the possibility of constructing a marina in the ward at Saturday’s Third Ward town hall meeting.

The open forum, which was the first of its kind in about two years, drew more than 100 residents to Lincoln Elementary School, 910 Forest Ave.

“It was important to talk about what’s going on at Chicago Avenue and throughout Evanston,” Wynne said.

Saturday’s meeting was the 16th town hall gathering Wynne has organized since she was elected in 1997.

The meetings usually take place three times per year, but “take a lot of effort to put together,” Wynne said. The next meeting should take place in October.

Perhaps the most polarizing issue discussed at the gathering was the possibility of building a marina in the ward across from Calvary Cemetery, 310 Chicago Ave. Many residents showed their apparent dislike of the proposal by laughing at the marina idea as soon as Wynne brought it up for discussion.

Wynne said a feasibility study commissioned by the city showed not enough interest exists for a marina in Evanston and did not provide a more detailed assessment of the costs.

She added that there were other facilities, such as the Robert Crown Center, 1701 Main St., that needed public funds.

“The majority of Evanstonians felt very strongly that they were opposed to a marina,” Wynne said. “My feeling is that we have to continue to fight this, but I don’t think there is much support for this on the council.”

Any new marina would make it impossible to keep the water clean and only benefit the few people who could afford boats, said Laura Allen-Simpson, a resident of the Third Ward who echoed the concerns shared by many at the meeting.

“You get pretty boats, but you also get parking lots,” she said. “There is a certain posturing going on with some of the aldermen, and you have to wonder what the motive is behind it.”

But not all residents felt the need to demonize the marina.

“Marinas are beautiful — it will pay for itself and it will generate revenue,” said Richard O’Dwyer, who lives near the lakefront. “It seems like everyone is always against something that could make the community better.”

When O’Dwyer and another area resident stood up and tried to speak in favor of a marina, other residents responded by chuckling at some of their opinions.

Earlier in the meeting, Wynne called the recent reduction in zoning at the Main Street and Chicago Avenue intersection a “big victory” for the community. The zoning change lowered the height limit on buildings at the site from 125 feet to 67 feet.

“In my mind, and in the minds of most of the community, (125 feet) is overwhelming,” Wynne said. “(67 feet) is not an ideal height, but a height that is so much better.”

But one resident was concerned that the new zoning ordinance would allow the buildings to be more dense, despite being shorter. Another resident spoke out against developers demolishing old buildings without preparing plans to put up new ones. One resident wanted to make sure that new buildings would be aesthetically pleasing.

Wynne also informed the community that a new development at Chicago Avenue and Greenwood Street probably would see a reduction in zoning from a height of 125 feet to 45 feet in the next month. Evanston City Council will consider the matter at its May 24 meeting.