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The Daily Northwestern

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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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Residents criticize Ryan Field community benefits agreement, call for Council to delay decision

Shun Graves/The Daily Northwestern
Evanston residents sounded off on Northwestern’s benefits package for its Rebuild Ryan Field project at a public meeting Thursday night.

Dozens of Evanston residents called for the city to hit the brakes on Northwestern’s Rebuild Ryan Field project in a town hall about the University’s proposed community benefits agreement Thursday night.

The town hall meeting, hosted by Alds. Krissie Harris (2nd), Devon Reid (8th) and Bobby Burns (5th), gave residents a chance to voice their concerns about NU’s proposed public benefits package. 

The University’s $100 million package promises benefits lasting for 10 years and could help serve city residents amid the Ryan Field rebuild. The proposed agreement, which would be legally enforceable if approved, says the funds for local organizations and initiatives represent “voluntary payments to the City and other City stakeholder organizations.”

As City Council gears up for next week’s final vote on the rebuild — and a contentious rezoning amendment that would allow NU to host concerts at the new stadium — several residents criticized the proposed agreement.

“Evanston is stuck with (the CBA),” said Jim Froberg (Kellogg ‘89), an Evanston resident. “That is not a contract. That is not a mutual agreement.”

Only one speaker called for the council to approve the concerts with the CBA as proposed by NU. University officials did not attend the meeting. 

Many speakers criticized a clause in the memorandum of understanding — a document that outlines an agreement that is not legally binding between NU and the city — that prohibits future adjustments to the ordinances that would approve the rebuild and concerts.

“The City shall not revoke, rescind, modify or otherwise alter the Approval Ordinances without Northwestern’s prior written and signed consent,” the document says.

Several speakers said the provision could tie down the council from making changes if the new stadium has detrimental impacts.

“You are cows going to the slaughterhouse,” Evanston resident Yvi Russell told the councilmembers.

On Oct. 30, City Council narrowly advanced the two ordinances to consider the stadium rebuild and rezoning for concerts. With a final vote on the measures set for Monday, several residents said the city has hurtled toward a decision too soon and should  negotiate further with NU to get a more lucrative CBA.

“We need to table the agreement to fully flesh this out and understand that we don’t need to rush,” Sebastian Nalls, an Evanston resident and former mayoral candidate said. “We can take our time to get the best deal possible.”

The Oct. 30 vote on the concert rezoning revealed early divisions among councilmembers. Mayor Daniel Biss cast a tie-breaking vote to advance the measure after councilmembers split 4-4 on the issue. Biss did not attend Thursday’s meeting, a fact that elicited laughter from the audience.

All three councilmembers who attended the town hall voted to advance both the stadium and the concert rezoning measures last week. Reid said he helped organize the meeting so he could hear residents’ concerns about the community benefits package that NU revealed hours before the Oct. 30 council meeting.

“I cannot make a commitment yet as to whether I’m supportive of tabling (the proposals),” Reid told The Daily after the meeting. “I do support having independent counsel have an opportunity to look at the MOU and give the council advice. I will be starting there, and depending on the outcome of that, then I, on Monday, will determine whether or not a table is appropriate.”

David DeCarlo, president of the Most Livable City Association, a resident-led stadium opposition group, told The Daily he saw Thursday’s town hall as an important forum for residents to describe “serious flaws” in NU’s proposal.

“The least the council should be considering at this point given all the concerns we heard tonight is hitting the pause button,” he said.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @realShunGraves

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