Wilmette, News

Wilmette and Evanston find common ground with tentative Ryan Field agreement

Village Board decides not to pursue lawsuit but retains rights to do so in future

The Village of Wilmette and City of Evanston have reached a tentative agreement to provide community safeguards related to the construction of Northwestern University’s new Ryan Field and the eventual events the school plans to hold there.

The details of the agreement reportedly were based on continued feedback from Wilmette residents, many of whom have expressed concerns about everything from noise pollution to congestion and live within two blocks of the stadium, which is being rebuilt and repurposed to host live entertainment as well as sporting events.

As part of the tentative agreement, which needs the approval of both municipalities’ governing boards, Wilmette receives relief from as well as input on construction, traffic and sound levels, according to information provided by the Village of Wilmette. Financial considerations reportedly are also part of the deal.

Since the City of Evanston approved Northwestern’s plans for Ryan Field, Wilmette officials have convened — primarily in closed sessions — to discuss next steps, up to and including litigation. The Wilmette Village Board reportedly sought legal advice and “determined that pursuing litigation against the City of Evanston regarding the legality of its zoning approvals would not be productive.”

“Protecting residents from demolition, construction, and prospective concerts at NU’s Ryan Field has and continues to be a major focus of the Village,” Village President Senta Plunkett said in a statement. “The proposed intergovernmental Agreement delivers immediate and substantial protections to our residents in a way that we could not guarantee through litigation against Evanston.

“It is important for our residents to know that the Village will continue to advocate on their behalf and ultimately reserves the option to take further actions to protect the community should substantial harm be caused by the operations of Ryan Field.”

Northwestern announced its intentions to build a new “world-class” venue that would host a limited number of concerts in the 35,000-person stadium in the fall of 2022.

Since the inception of the school’s plans, Wilmette residents and elected officials have intensely fought the project, mainly Northwestern’s rezoning request to allow concerts at the new stadium that opponents argued would create traffic, safety and qualify-of-life problems in southern Wilmette.

The Village approved a resolution in August formally objecting to the rezoning of Ryan Field, but Evanston Mayor Daniel Biss cast the decisive vote on Monday, Nov. 20, to make NU’s plans a reality, marking the end of an arduous and intense public review process.

Concerned residents continued to push the Village to find solutions to support the community, and on Thursday, as demolition is about to begin on Ryan Field, Wilmette officials released details of the intergovernmental agreement.

As part of the agreement, Wilmette and Evanston agree that:

“• Construction traffic, concert set-up traffic and concert attendee traffic may not be directed into Wilmette;

• Evanston will ensure a construction management representative is onsite during demolition and new construction to resolve resident concerns in real-time;

• Wilmette will have the opportunity to review and provide feedback regarding construction plans, stadium security plans, traffic management plans, and concert operations plans prior to their approval by Evanston;

• Evanston will consult with Wilmette regarding sound mitigation strategies for concerts and ensure sound measurement devices are installed in Wilmette;

• Wilmette will appoint a representative to serve as an ex-officio member of the Evanston/Northwestern Community Advisory Council;

• Evanston will support Northwestern’s continued reimbursement of police and public works expenses associated with events at the Ryan Field complex; and

• Evanston will share fine revenues with Wilmette should concert noise in Wilmette exceed established thresholds.

Additionally, according to the agreement, the Village of Wilmette retains its right to pursue litigation in the future.

The Wilmette Village Board will consider the agreement at its next meeting on Tuesday, Feb. 13, while the Evanston City Council will do the same a day earlier on Monday, Feb. 12.

“Reaching such an agreement delivers immediate tangible protections to Wilmette residents which could not be assured through litigation which is a lengthy and uncertain endeavor and preserves an important working relationship between Wilmette and Evanston,” the Wilmette Village Board statement says.

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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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