City staff discuss ADA improvement plan, new comprehensive plan and zoning requests


Daily file photo by Colin Boyle

The Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center. Evanston’s proposed 2024 Capital Improvement Program totals $111 million, an increase from previous years.

Shannon Tyler, City Editor

City staff presented plans for ADA improvements to City Council at its meeting Monday. 

They also continued a conversation on its proposed updated Comprehensive Plan and zoning code, presenting an overview of the process and timeline for hiring consultants to work on each. 

Accessibility Transition Plan

At the meeting, city engineer Lara Biggs presented Evanston’s 2022 Americans with Disabilities Act Transition Plan, a guide to the city’s accessibility resources and their recommended improvements. The council approved the accessibility plan to be placed on file.  

Parks and Recreation Director Audrey Thompson recommended the city appoint a full-time Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, formalize a departmental ADA system and create an advisory group. She also suggested that the city budget an additional $300,000 annually for ADA improvement projects and create a system to track ADA requests from citizens.

Those recommendations grew from the city’s 2021 contract with Altura Solutions, LLC. The city hired Altura to upgrade the ADA Transition Plan, which has not been updated since 2012. 

City staff started redeveloping the plan in May 2021, using input from residents with disabilities and those who work with people with disabilities, along with a public survey and city staff. 

“We will work together across departments to make sure that our ADA plan is fulfilled and not only that we are meeting what is required, but that we are going over and beyond the call of duty,” Thompson said. 

New Comprehensive Plan and zoning code request

The Comprehensive Plan is a long term planning document outlining future physical developments in Evanston. Neighborhood and Land Use Planner Meagan Jones said the new Comprehensive Plan will focus on eliminating exclusionary practices resulting in systemic inequalities.

The city’s current Comprehensive Plan was adopted in 2000 and the zoning code was implemented in 1993. Jones said Evanston is overdue in updating both documents. 

“(The Comprehensive Plan) doesn’t really focus on some of the current issues that are important to Evanston,” Jones said. “Some are the declining minority population, the polarization of wealth in the community, reparations, the loss of brick and mortar retail within town and environmental health disparities.” 

Jones said city staff will lean on other city plans, including the Climate Action Resilience Plan and the ADA Transition Plan, to build the Comprehensive Plan and zoning code. She added that the plan will eventually be a guide for the committees, commission and council to make decisions that reflect the goals of the community. 

Zoning Administrator Melissa Klotz said the zoning plan needs to simplify regulations and streamline processes for residents. She said the existing Evanston zoning code is very complicated and hundreds of amendments have been made since its adoption over 20 years ago.

“By reducing barriers to property improvements, we can reduce the amount of zoning relief that is needed for residents so they can make improvements to their properties in shorter time frames,” Klotz said. 

Current regulations make it difficult to improve properties without going through a rezoning process –– which can take up to 90 days –– according to Klotz. 

In the new zoning code, the city also hopes to focus more on bulk placement of structures rather than density, reduce regulations that require zoning changes for “common sense” projects and replace outdated regulatory practices. 

A request for consultants for the Comprehensive Plan and zoning code will be published on April 6. The Council said consultant selection is a 24 month process. 

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @shannonmtyler

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