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1/16/2013 3:09:00 PM
Residents Sue to Overturn Approval of NU Parking Lot

Three longtime Evanston residents have filed suit against the City of Evanston in an effort to stop the construction of a seven-story parking garage on Evanston’s lakefront and to save a half-acre forest at the north end of one of the City beaches.

In a lawsuit filed on Jan. 11 in Cook County Circuit Court, Evanston residents Matthew Mirapaul, Ann Jennett and Mitchell Harrison ask the court to order Evanston to rescind its approval for Northwestern University to build a visitor center and 435-space parking garage at 1841 Sheridan Road. The parking garage is planned for the southeast corner of the NU campus, adjacent to Clark Street Beach.

“The lakefront is Evanston’s most precious natural resource, as well as the City’s most appealing feature,” Mr. Mirapaul said. “We must do everything we can to protect it. … But the City Council overturned a well-reasoned decision by the Preservation Commission and ignored strong community opposition to the project. Unfortunately, our only remaining recourse is the courts. “

The lawsuit alleges that the City Council acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in overturning the Preservation Commission’s decision to deny a Certificate of Appropriateness for the parking garage. The suit also alleges that the structure violates the City’s zoning ordinance and is contrary to longstanding City planning documents.

The Evanston Preservation Commission voted on Oct. 16 to deny a Certificate of Appropriateness for the parking garage. On Oct. 22, the City Council voted 6-2 to overturn the Commission’s ruling.

On Nov. 12, the Council voted 6-1 to approve an ordinance that allows NU to build an access road to the parking garage on City land. To do so, a half acre of mature woodland at the north end of Clark Street Beach – which serves as a wildlife habitat, especially for birds on an active migratory flyway – will allegedly be destroyed.

In 2008, the Evanston City Council unanimously voted to enact a Lakefront Master Plan, its first goal to “Establish practices and policies to preserve and enhance the lakefront’s natural environment.” Mr. Mirapaul and Ms. Jennett were active in the creation of the Lakefront Master Plan.

Reader Comments

Posted: Tuesday, January 22, 2013
Article comment by: Anna Van Heukelem

I wish I could join this lawsuit as well. Why were there no public hearings about this before the city council voted on it, or, if there were hearings, why were there not more of them and better publicized so that the taxpayers of Evanston would have been able to have input in this decision. We need to protect our lakefront as a precious natural resource from developers such as Northwestern.

Posted: Saturday, January 19, 2013
Article comment by: Nancy Traver

This visitors center and parking lot is a terrible thing, and I would like to know why the city council (except for one member) voted to approve it. If NU wants to build a parking structure, the university should build on an existing parking lot. Has the university shown the community a campus site study that proves that all other options are not viable? Wouldn't there be merit to building a parking structure and visitors center on existing surface lot parking areas, of which there are many acres on that campus? Does the university have an obligation to the community to build sustainable and responsible facilities, and is this building sustainable or responsible? Does open community land have a value beyond $1 per year?

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Article comment by: richard phillips

A 7-story parking garage on the lakefront, and no one on the Evanston City Council is disturbed? Timid. Timid. Timid. Or perhaps: Cowed, cowardly and obsequeous.

Posted: Wednesday, January 16, 2013
Article comment by: Sue Holbert

I applaud the Evanston residents who filed this lawsuit. If there is any way I could join it, I would. I think the proposed structure is a rude violation of the historic lakefront, it takes away some of our valuable and irrecoverable parkland, and the recompense to the city's residents (maintaining a right-of-way for the city--goodness sakes, what a burden for NU!!) is ridiculously insufficient. And I want to object to the fact that we, the taxpayers, support a preservation commission, but then the council sslap its recommendations down.

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