Wilmette, News

Lawsuit: Evanston broke law in approval of Northwestern’s Ryan Field plans

As expected, the City of Evanston is being sued over its Nov. 20 approval of Northwestern University’s request to rezone its athletics property to allow for concerts.

The Most Livable City Association, a group that has fought NU’s plans for Ryan Field, reportedly filed its lawsuit in the Circuit Court of Cook County on Thursday, Nov. 30, claiming the City violated local and state laws in its review of the university’s request, “harming residents and violating the public trust.”

The suit (which you can read in full HERE or below) also names 12 residents as plaintiffs against the City and is requesting the court find the City’s decision invalid, among other requests.

Northwestern announced its plans to rebuild and reimagine Ryan Field in September 2022. Since then, the university refined its plans and developed a multi-million-dollar community benefits package for Evanston.

Led by the stadium’s residential neighbors, opposition grew over NU’s plans, focusing on the negative consequences — such as noise and traffic pollution — of large-scale concerts. The Village of Wilmette officially joined the opposition in August by approving a resolution objecting to the idea. Wilmette officials presented the objection numerous times to Evanston officials.

An arduous and at times contentious public review process ended in the early hours of Tuesday, Nov. 21, when Mayor Daniel Biss cast the decisive vote that made NU’s plans a reality.

In the immediate aftermath, the Most Livable City Association implied it would pursue litigation and released a statement on Nov. 30 with the final paperwork.

“Our elected officials failed to follow the law and that’s why we’re bringing this suit,” said
David DeCarlo, the group’s president in a statement. “The law exists to protect us all, and it has to be applied impartially — with no exceptions for billionaires or powerful institutions.”

The City of Evanston’s Jamie Mayo, the interim communications director, declined to comment and said the City had not yet been served the lawsuit.

In the suit, the association accuses the Evanston City Council needed six votes to pass NU’s request, instead of the five the measure received, to comply with the city’s own ordinance.

It also alleges that City officials, including Mayor Daniel Biss, worked in concert with Northwestern officials to limit resident participation in the public process and to massage the school’s proposal into something the council would pass.

“Evanston systematically aided Northwestern throughout the zoning process, seeking a predetermined outcome,” the suit says.

Another portion of the suit claims that City officials ignored evidence that negatively impacted NU’s request, specifically citing an alternative sound report produced by Arup Acoustics and commissioned by Wilmette residents.

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joe coughlin
Joe Coughlin

Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319

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