Editorial: Pass plan to help economy

After more than three years in the making, Evanston’s Downtown Plan is finally seeing the light of day. Now it’s time to push it to a vote.

The plan seeks to consolidate the city’s building regulations to provide a clear framework for future development.

The plan came before the Planning and Development Committee last Monday (“Council approves green initiative,” Nov. 11) after the Plan Commission approved it last month in a 7-1 vote. A final vote could still be a long way off if more rounds of hearings are held at the committee and City Council levels.

But all the drawn-out squabbling over building height and parking has delayed and possibly scared off major development. The proposed 38-story tower at 708 Church St. was put on hold in May pending the plan. The building would have provided valuable tax revenue at a time when the city is badly in need of funds.

Such projects may no longer be feasible during the current financial crisis. But in tough economic times, Evanston should be doing what it can to attract developers. By encouraging building, the city could help better the economy when most developers are staying out of the market.

Discussion is important to ensure that a balance is struck between residents and developers. At the same time, the committee and city council should not belabor the public hearings process. Even another six months is too long when every effort is needed to get the economy back on its feet.

City bureaucracy is infamously slow. The City Council and Planning and Development Committee should pass the plan quickly and disprove their reputation.