Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern


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Walkout interrupts zoning discussions involving tower plan

Three Plan Commission members walked out of a Wednesday night meeting before the commission could discuss changes that would have made building the proposed 38-story Fountain Square tower in downtown Evanston impossible.

The meeting about the downtown plan went smoothly until commissioner Johanna Nyden proposed that the central core district, currently zoned for a maximum of 42 stories, be rezoned to a maximum of 25 stories, the height of Evanston’s tallest building. This would exclude the planned tower, which is in the core business district.

Commission vice chairman Stuart Opdycke accused the commissioners who oppose the tower of taking advantage of the meeting because chairman James Woods, who is in favor of the tower, was not present.

“If this is some kind of power play when our chairman is absent, I think this is deplorable,” said Opdycke, the acting chairman. “We don’t have the benefit of his expertise and people are playing a parliamentarian game, and I will not be a part of it.”

Opdycke led a walkout of the meeting room, with commissioners David Galloway and Charles Staley following. The three commissioners and Woods are all in favor of the proposed tower, Nyden said.

When the three commissioners abruptly left, the commission no longer had a quorum and had to end its meeting.

Nyden would have proposed the motion if the chairman had been present, she said. The commissioners who remained agreed that a vote Wednesday night would have led to a 4-3 outcome in favor of lowering the height limit.

“I think it’s irresponsible, and it’s not effective civic participation if you’re going to not participation in discussion,” Nyden said.

Other remaining commissioners were also angered by the walkout, saying the pro-tower commissioners purposefully avoided a vote.

“They chickened out on a vote,” commissioner Coleen Burrus said. “They put the knife on us.”

Nyden proposed the motion because the potential 38-story tower, which was originally planned to be 49 stories, has inhibited the city from making progress on the downtown plan. The downtown plan draft uses form-based zoning to create a downtown with mixed districts, combing residential areas and industry. Form-based zoning is a method of development that focuses on controlling physical form, with less of a focus on specific land use.

Evanston’s Planning and Development Committee has postponed a vote on the proposed skyscraper, pending a recommendation from the Plan Commission on a downtown master plan.

“The tower has played a predominant role in the downtown plan,” Nyden said. “It has been a dark cloud over the planning process. The plan would have no credibility with a tower in it.”

Evanston resident Jeff Smith, who had requested to present on behalf of an anti-tower group during the meeting, said he was disappointed the commissioners walked out.

“It’s unfortunate,” Smith, Weinberg ’77, said. “The process is going to take long enough as it is without commissioners creating a further delay.”

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Walkout interrupts zoning discussions involving tower plan