City Council postpones 1 housing development, approves another

The Evanston City Council Planning and Development Committee voted Tuesday night to postpone action on the Darrow Corners development, a controversial affordable housing proposal planned for the Church Street and Darrow Avenue area. Instead, aldermen created a subcommittee to try to reach a compromise between the developers and neighbors of the development.

Neighbors said they do not support the proposal because it could decrease their property values. They also said the development as proposed would be too dense.

The subcommittee will comprise four aldermen – Alds. Delores Holmes (5th) as chairwoman, Elizabeth Tisdahl (7th), Lionel Jean-Baptiste (2nd) and Anjana Hansen (9th) – as well as members of the Housing Opportunity Development Corporation, the company developing the Darrow Corners project; and neighbors opposed to the project. The subcommittee will meet on April 17.

The subcommittee will report back to the council at the Planning and Development Committee meeting on May 22.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) gave speakers from both sides of the proposal 15 minutes each to sum up their concerns before the aldermen discussed the issue. Richard Koenig, a representative for HODC, responded to a statement from Plan Commission chairman Albert Hunter that called the development a “concentration of poverty.”

“We’ve worked on the proposal for about three years for a plan that would fit in with the neighborhood,” Koenig said. “This isn’t something that’s trying to be forced on the community.”

Evanston resident and Housing Commission member Judith Hurwich supported the proposed affordable-housing development, saying she met difficulties when trying to find housing in Evanston that fit into her budget.

“The frustration of not being able to afford to live in the city on the salary of a government employee was immeasurable,” Hurwich said.

Council members Hansen, Rainey, Jean-Baptiste and Tisdahl all said that, in the past, developers had been more willing to redesign their original proposals.

“I like to compromise, to work things out,” Jean-Baptiste said. “I’m willing to wait 30 days. Maybe the gate (around the property) is not appropriate. Maybe the issue of management needs further discussion.”

The council approved the Church Street Village proposal to build 40 housing units at 1613 Church St. The developer agreed to donate $25,000 to the City of Evanston Job Fund in addition to the $50,000 they previously said they would donate to the mayor’s affordable housing fund.

Evanston resident Judy Fiske spoke about Northwestern’s surprise purchase of a property to be used for faculty housing.

Ald. Cheryl Wollin (1st) said she spoke to NU officials when she first heard about the project Tuesday afternoon to “convey my disappointment and anger.”

“There is no one on the council or in the administration that is more disappointed (than I),” Wollin said.

The council also approved the purchase of 20 video cameras for Evanston Police Department squad cars. The cameras used in the cars are five years old and require the officers to insert a tape into the camera at the beginning of each shift, EPD Chief Frank Kaminski said. The new cameras will upload video when the car returns to the station and will not need tapes.

The cameras, located on the dashboard of each car, begin recording as soon as the car’s emergency lights turn on and will include pocket microphones to capture audio during each police stop.

The tapes are often subpoenaed in DUI cases and can monitor police officers during stops, Kaminski said.

Reach Laura Olson at [email protected] and Matt Presser at [email protected]