City Council rejects application for appeal to demolish Harley Clarke

Ald.+Robin+Rue+Simmons+%285th%29+at+a+city+meeting.+Rue+Simmons+and+other+aldermen+on+Monday+unanimously+rejected+an+application+to+overturn+the+Preservation+Commission%E2%80%99s+protection+of+the+Harley+Clarke+Mansion.
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City Council rejects application for appeal to demolish Harley Clarke

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) at a city meeting. Rue Simmons and other aldermen on Monday unanimously rejected an application to overturn the Preservation Commission’s protection of the Harley Clarke Mansion.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) at a city meeting. Rue Simmons and other aldermen on Monday unanimously rejected an application to overturn the Preservation Commission’s protection of the Harley Clarke Mansion.

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) at a city meeting. Rue Simmons and other aldermen on Monday unanimously rejected an application to overturn the Preservation Commission’s protection of the Harley Clarke Mansion.

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) at a city meeting. Rue Simmons and other aldermen on Monday unanimously rejected an application to overturn the Preservation Commission’s protection of the Harley Clarke Mansion.

Wilson Chapman, Web Editor

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Aldermen on Monday unanimously rejected an application to overturn the Preservation Commission’s protection of the Harley Clarke Mansion, after a heated meeting on Monday.

The Harley Clarke Mansion, a historic mansion located on the lakefront in north Evanston, has been a point of debate within the Evanston community since 2015, when the building was vacated and the city began looking for options as to how to handle the property. In July, aldermen voted 6-3 to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the Evanston Lighthouse Dunes group to demolish the mansion and turn it into green space.

However, the Preservation Commission denied the city’s application in October, ruling that the building did not meet any of the five standards for demolition. The vote at Monday’s meeting was to begin the appeals process of the preservation commission’s decision and continue forward with demolition efforts. With the application rejected, this process will not move forward.

During public comment, several members of the Evanston community spoke against preserving the building, expressing frustration with how long the debate has dragged on. Speakers said that the city did not have the money or funds to renovate the building and that preserving the mansion would be an unnecessary drain on the community’s resources.

Many also spoke in favor of the preservation of Harley Clarke, arguing that the demolition was unethical if the building failed to meet any standards for demolition as defined by the Preservation Commission. They said aldermen should vote with their constituents, referring to the roughly 80 percent of voters who voted in support of preserving Harley Clarke during an advisory referendum included on the November ballot.

Although aldermen ultimately voted to halt the appeals process, several of them expressed their frustration with the debate.

Ald. Cicely Fleming (9th) said that she was frustrated with having to deal with the collective anger people have over the mansion instead of focusing on issues that she personally deemed more important, such as taxes or people in her ward who were unable to afford to live in the city.

“I feel like this building, which some people love, other people think it’s just a building… has really shown a lot of ugliness in our city,” Fleming said.

Ald. Robin Rue Simmons (5th) echoed Fleming’s comments regarding Harley Clarke, saying that the discussions around the building have ‘consumed’ her time at council when she would rather focus on the people in her ward. She said she was disappointed that this issue was the focus of so many Evanston residents, but that ultimately it is not her place to decide what was important to the community of Evanston.

She ended up voting against the appeals process, saying she did so given the support that Evanston residents have shown for Harley Clarke throughout the discussion and referendum.

After aldermen voted against the application for appeal, Mayor Steve Hagerty spoke about how long and difficult the process of solving the Harley Clarke issue has been, and that so far, every plan brought before the council has failed in some way. Hagerty said that going forward, the people of Evanston will need to work more cooperatively and respectfully with one another if they hope to ever find a permanent solution to the debate.

“We want you to try harder with this mansion, and that means that we’re all going to have to work effectively together, and not vilify one another,” Hagerty said. “(Then let’s) see if we can’t come up with a solution for this mansion.”

Email: wilsonchapman2021@u.northwestern.edu
Twitter: @wilsonchapman10

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