Council, NU agree to add streetlights

Students and other Evanston residents walking southeast of campus will now enjoy better-lit and safer roads, according to representatives from Northwestern’s Associated Student Government.

Aldermen voted unanimously to pass a resolution allowing the city to build 19 streetlights near the John Evans Alumni Center, 1800 Sheridan Road. The lights will be placed along Sheridan Road, Clark and Church streets and Judson Avenue.

Lighting near campus was originally examined about a year ago by NU, ASG and Ald. Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th). This sets a new precedent for the city and the school working together, said ASG President Patrick Keenan-Devlin.

“I hope the City of Evanston will see this as a steppingstone for further cooperation – especially for safety,” Keenan-Devlin said.

The university will pay for the lights and installation, and the city will pay for maintenance.

The vote came after four attacks since September against students on and around the Evanston campus.

Aldermen also approved a condominium development that will create tax revenues of about $2 million but could remove street parking spaces.

The ordinance passed 8-0 with Ald. Steven Bernstein (4th) abstaining because of a potential conflict of interest.

The development at 1567 Maple Ave. will replace a vacant building with a 15-story condominium that could bring in about $2 million in additional tax revenues, according to developer Winthrop Properties, LLC.

The condominium will be accompanied by stores on the ground floor and a parking garage. Condominium sales will begin in January 2006 and construction will follow a year later. It is projected to be complete in May 2008.

Many plans for the building have changed since the Evanston Planning and Development Committee began discussing it in June. The building’s height was lowered, its driveway was relocated from Maple Avenue to Elmwood Avenue, and a compensation plan was developed to cover the loss of about 10 parking spaces and their meters.

The developer accepted the compromises.

“I just want to see this done,” said Robert Horner, a principal for Winthrop Properties.

To compensate for the loss of parking meter revenue, aldermen added an annual fee of $820 per removed parking spot. The condominium association or the developer will pay the fee.

“Every single parking place we have on the streets of Evanston is precious,” Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said. “So I don’t think this is a burdensome requirement.”

Aldermen also introduced an ordinance that would require a $10,000 tax for people who demolish single-family homes so they can build and sell a new home on the same lot. The teardown tax was meant to fight rising housing costs by discouraging people from replacing affordable homes with more expensive houses.

Revenues from the tax also would go to a city-managed affordable housing fund.

City lawmakers unanimously voted for the tax but asked city staff to add provisions so residents who were demolishing and rebuilding their own homes wouldn’t be taxed. The charge would only affect those who tore down homes and rebuilt them intending to make a profit.

Aldermen said the $10,000 tax would do little to discourage residents from tearing down houses to build and sell million-dollar homes.

“The argument being put forward here is if we have teardown tax that’s going to pull the train off the track,” Ald. Edmund Moran (6th) said about the effort to stop the increase in housing costs. “I dare anyone to say that $10,000 would even slow the train down.”

The city will also amend the ordinance so the tax would be refunded if the rebuilt home were sold for less than $500,000. The council will vote again on the tax at its next meeting. If it passes, the tax will become law.

Reach Lee S. Ettleman at [email protected] and Elizabeth Gibson at [email protected]