Wilmette, News

Evanston City Council gives support to Ryan Field pact with Wilmette

Members of Most Livable City Association urge residents to stay the course on lawsuit against rezoning

(Editor’s Note: This story was originally reported for and published by the Evanston Roundtable, a neighboring independent newsroom, and was shared with The Record as part of a collaborative effort.)

Evanston City Council members gave their backing Monday night to a resolution authorizing officials to establish an intergovernmental agreement with Wilmette designed to protect both towns against impacts from Northwestern University’s $800 million stadium project.

The agreement made it through the Wilmette Village Board on Tuesday night.

Evanston City Council members approved zoning changes November of last year for a new Ryan Field and to allow for more events at the rebuilt stadium: six full-capacity, public-facing concerts, and as many as 60 other events, including lectures, music festivals to as many as 7,500 people

The stadium complex, which includes Welsh-Ryan area, sits between the two towns, with Wilmette’s Isabella Street directly north.

The resolution authorizes Evanston’s city manager to enter an intergovernmental agreement with the Village of Wilmette, Alexandra Ruggie, Evanston’s interim corporation counsel, pointed out in a memo.

The city acknowledges that Wilmette borders Ryan Field and that the construction and additional events will impact Wilmette, she wrote.

“Therefore, Evanston and Wilmette seek to enter into an intergovernmental agreement to mitigate these impacts and ensure that both communities work collaboratively during the construction and event process.”

This includes a provision for the placement of sound devices and vibration devices in Wilmette, similar to Evanston.

“The agreement additionally calls for the mitigation of traffic through Wilmette through Evanston’s traffic management and construction management plans,” she noted.

Under the agreement, Evanston agrees to:

• Provide Wilmette with NU’s current and amended calendar of scheduled events;
• Provide the village with all current and amended construction plans;
• Ensure that traffic from the demolition of Ryan Field, construction of the Ryan Field Complex, and concerts set up be restricted from going on or through Wilmette;
• Provide Wilmette with any current and amended plans for sound mitigation. Three sound measurement devices shall be placed at or near the border of Wilmette, in Wilmette, or near the border of Wilmette, at locations determined by the village;
• Provide for Evanston or Northwestern, by requirement of Evanston, to have a construction management representative onsite at all times during the demolition at Ryan Field as well as during the construction of any component of the Ryan Field complex.

Evanston City Council members voted 6-0 Monday night in favor of the resolution.
Council Members Krissie Harris (2nd Ward) and Devon Reid (8th) were absent from the meeting. Council Member Juan Geracaris, an employee of the university, also did not vote.

Wilmette strong voice early on

The village of Wilmette took a strong stand during the stadium hearing process, with the board unanimously approving a resolution last August objecting to zoning changes by Evanston which would allow concerts.

At the time, the village estimated that more than 500 households neighboring the campus will be directly impacted by the concerts — and many more indirectly as well.

Wilmette Village President Senta Plunkett urged the city council at the December meeting to reject Northwestern’s zoning request.

Wilmette officials announced less than a week ago that based on advice from its legal counsel as well as cooperative discussions with the City of Evanston, the board has determined that pursuing litigation against the city regarding the legality of its zoning approval, “would not be productive.”

Agreement protection ‘illusory’: Most Livable City Association

Members of Most Livable City Association, in a release issued shortly after the Evanston City Council’s vote Monday, urged residents to attend the Wilmette Village Board on Tuesday to urge the board to keep up the fight against the rezoning.

The release included a letter from Steven Harper, a Wilmette attorney. Harper wrote that the village has until Feb. 16 to file a lawsuit challenging Evanston’s ordinance that allows concerts at the new stadium.

“But rather than sue, the board has negotiated an intergovernmental agreement with Evanston. The illusory agreement will do nothing to protect residents from the worst consequences of the Ryan Field project: Noise pollution, air pollution, declining property values, erosion of Wilmette’s tax base and more,” the letter reads.

“The agreement requires little more than Evanston’s production of various documents that it receives from Northwestern. Apart from a limited effort to divert construction and concert setup traffic away from Wilmette streets, there is almost nothing for the Village to ‘enforce.’”

He noted that while the agreement calls for Evanston to restrict construction and concert setup traffic from using Wilmette streets, it “takes no responsibility for concertgoers who use Wilmette streets anyway.”

Similarly, he wrote, Evanston must provide Northwestern’s sound mitigation plans to Wilmette, but Wilmette has no power to change them.

“The ‘Enforcement’ section is an especially a bad joke: Wilmette will receive one-half of any fines resulting from excessive noise,” he wrote. “But the maximum noise level set in Evanston’s new ordinance (average of 80 dBA – comparable to a garbage disposal, only worse because it’s an average over the entire event) is so high that concerts at Ryan Field will never reach the dangerous level resulting in fines – which are insignificant in any event.“

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Bob Seidenberg, Evanston RoundTable

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