Council postpones zoning ordinance changes

Julianna Nunez

City residents and council members debated approving an ordinace that would modify regulations for bed and breakfast establishments in Evanston at the city council meeting Monday.

Before the council began to discuss the ordinance, several Evanston residents spoke to the council and expressed their concerns. Mitchell Harrison, a resident of the 1st ward, said the city should exercise caution over allowing bed and breakfasts in Evanston. He said passing the ordinance could have negative consequences that would affect his neighborhood.

“Personally, I think the value of our homes could go down. I think that you want to have a distance,” Harrison said. “My belief is if you’re going to allow more than one (bed and breakfast) in our ward for example… (they) should be at least 750 feet apart.

Harrison also said another concern with the ordinance is the amount of people a bed and breakfast would draw to a particular area.

“I’m concerned about special events, I’m concerned about parking, I’m concerned about noise and I don’t really think it fits,” he said. “I think there are other parts in town that would be nice to have a bed and breakfast.”

Because his ward is a historic ward, Harrison said, establishing a bed in breakfast would be inappropriate for the area. He said bed and breakfasts did not belong in the first ward.

“It sounds snooty–maybe a little snobbish–but it’s a beautiful area and once certain things are taken away from it they’re not going to come back,” he said.

After Harrison, Lynne Simon and Linda Cooper stepped forward together and spoke. Simon and Cooper own a home and condo, respectively, on Church Street. Like Harrison, Simon said she believed there should be a considerable distance between homes and bed and breakfasts.

“I live in this neighborhood, it’s a wonderful neighborhood, very close to the main part of downtown Evanston and it’s a very fragile residential neighborhood for that reason,” Simon said. “If we have (more than one bed and breakfast) in that neighborhood, it’s going to destroy the character, the residential nature of the neighborhood.”

Simon also said she supported a distance requirement for the bed and breakfasts in Evanston of up to 1,000 ft. She also said the city should regulate the number of special events in the area, and keep parking availability unaffected.

Cooper said she was concerned about the ownership of bed and breakfast properties going to larger companies, and the complications that would follow.

“In the ordinance, there is the request that the owner own 50 percent or more of the property, but also that it be owner occupied,” Cooper said. “If the property is an LLC (limited liability company), how is that going to work? Because if the actual owner is in the property, they’re accountable and at least you can go to them and talk to them.”

Evanston resident David Reynolds also said a bed and breakfast will negatively affect the neighborhood. He also said establishing bed and breakfasts is not necessary for rescuing and restoring old houses.

“Try to imagine what benefit a B and B could bestow on its neighbors or neighborhood,” Reynolds said. “Many have said that a B and B would rescue a grand old house in decline. If you look at the few grand old houses in the Lakeshore Historic District that have gone into decline in the past decade, each, with the exception of 300 Church Street, has been bought by a family that has invested heavily in repairs or restoration.”

During the meeting, Evanston Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl said Ald. Mark Tendam (6th) asked her to hold the ordinance to July 23 because he would be in Russia during the July 9 meeting.

Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd) said she was concerned about holding the ordinance because she will be absent during the July 23 meeting. She said the ordinance might be held again until Aug. 13 and council members would still be absent.

Ald. Coleen Burrus (9th) asked the other council members to agree to be in attendance on the Aug. 13 meeting, but some members said this this would prolong taking action on the ordinance.

Tisdahl asked Grant Farrar, corporation counsel and city attorney, to address and resolve the issue. Farrar suggested that a motion to postpone action until Aug 13. Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) added a request that the council not postpone the ordinance again on August 13.

The motion to postpone action on the ordinance passed 7-1.

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