Utility customers to pay $24 for elm vaccination

Evanston utility customers will pay $8.11 every year for the next three years to help fund the city’s elm inoculation program.

The funding plan, which would help the city pay to protect its 3,400 public elms against Dutch elm disease, passed by a vote of 6-3 at the Evanston City Council’s meeting Monday night.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd), who voted for the plan, said it was important for the City Council to act on funding because Evanston is losing its elms at a fast rate. Evanston removed 230 of its parkway elms last year, according to city documents.

“We’re spending our money to remove them,” Wynne said. “This is another way we can spend the money and save them.”

The council previously proposed that homeowners with elms in front of their property pay half the inoculation costs for those trees.

Alds. Edmund Moran (6th), Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th) and Ann Rainey (8th) voted against the funding plan. Moran said he was not sure the new plan was more fair than the old one.

“We’re just sliding around from one thing to another without thinking of what we do,” Moran said. “We’re making it up as we go.”

Moran and Rainey proposed inoculating only signature elms — the 1,150 trees with diameters greater than 30 inches — but that proposal was defeated 4-5.

The council also voted 8-1 to give more money to an affordable housing developer. Residents qualify for affordable housing, or discounts on rent, if they make less than 50 percent of the Chicago area’s median income.

Aldermen increased the city’s payment to Neil Davidson from $20,206 to $35,131. Davidson had requested an increase to $50,357 to compensate for the cost of building three townhouses on the 1800 block of Darrow Avenue. He is Evanston’s only for-profit developer of affordable housing.

Rainey said in the Planning and Development Committee meeting before the council meeting that Evanston must support affordable housing developers. In this case, if council did not increase the waiver, she said Davidson could raise the price of his developments to cover costs.

“We don’t want him to do that,” she said. “We want these units at an affordable price for moderate- to low-income families.”

But aldermen who have been on the committee for several years said Davidson asked for more funds before. Wynne said the last time Davidson came before the committee and was granted more funds, “the quote was, ‘This is it and no more.'”

“We can’t have a developer continually coming back and asking for more,” she said. “How do we say no at this point?”

Bernstein, who voted against the increase, said during the committee meeting that he did not want future developers to expect council to recoup their losses.

All nine aldermen were on the committee at Monday’s planning committee meeting for the first time after a May 17 schedule change. Then, they said the change would give aldermen equal footing on city issues and facilitate debate during regular council meetings. Monday’s council meeting ended at 11:10 p.m., and council meetings often stretch past midnight.

The council’s three new aldermen joined incumbent Ald. Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) at the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting, which preceded the planning committee meeting. Rainey sat in the front row and spoke more than any of the new aldermen. At a special council session after the committee meetings, she was appointed to the administration committee.

In other business, the council delayed voting on whether to allow proposed construction at the former site of Kendall College, 2408 Orrington Ave., until its June 13 meeting. It also postponed voting on increasing parking meter rates.

But the council did approve outdoor seating for Chipotle Mexican Grill, 711 Church St., after James Wolinski, Evanston’s director of community development, said the restaurant had made “vast improvements” in garbage collection within the last month.

Reach Greg Hafkin at [email protected] and Tina Peng at [email protected]