After three different plans, two petitions by community members and more than a year in the planning stage, it looks like a Chase Bank proposed at Gross Point Road and Crawford will go forward despite neighborhood opposition.
Evanston aldermen voted Monday to remove the prohibition on a drive-through at the intersection, where Edgemark Development LLC plans to build a 4,200-square-foot bank two lots. One lot is the site of a former gas station at 2628 Gross Point Road and the other is a residential lot at 2635 Crawford Avenue. In order to construct two drive-through lanes and an ATM drive-through, developers had to obtain an amendment to the zoning code that permits drive-throughs as a special use. Edgemark will still have to apply to the zoning board of appeals for a special use permit to build the drive-through.
Neighbors have opposed the proposed bank at council meetings and through two petitions submitted to the city for the past year. They say there are plenty of Chase Banks in Evanston, and a drive-through at this location would cause traffic problems at an already congested intersection. They also say they want to preserve the residential character of their neighborhood, as outlined in the city’s Central Street Master Plan.
Related: Neighbors List Concerns With Chase Bank Proposed on Crawford
“This current proposal…completely violates the spirit and intent of the Central Street Master Plan,” said Sigrid Pilgrim, who has lived in Evanston for 46 years. “I cannot but question the validity of considering a parking lot a few feet from a residential home.”
Edgemark initially proposed re-zoning the residential lot to construct the bank and drive-through there. The developer reworked plans, however, after more than 150 residents submitted a petition in July, opposing the rezoning, and specifically the proposed construction of the bank on the residential lot. Under the revised plans, Edgemark will donate the residential lot to the city, which will lease the lot to the bank for parking during the day.
Fernando Ferrer, who lives across from the proposed bank, told council members that he felt like Edgemark was attempting a “back-door solution” with the parking lot arrangement.
“This is a slap in the face to our petition,” he said.
Christine Sammel, who lives a few blocks away from the property, said she worried that the parking lot arrangement would set a precedent for future arrangements that allowed residential lots to be used for business purposes without an official zoning change.
“This proposal is about a company that didn’t get what it wanted through the zoning process,” Sammel said. “So it crafted a workaround. And what it worked around was the citizens, the Central Street Master plan, and your own zoning and development community.”
Ald. Mark Tendam, who represents the sixth ward where the proposed bank is located, has said in the past that a small group of people opposed the project, but overall, there is widespread support for the project in the neighborhood.
Ald. Jane Grover (7th ward) said she saw the revised plans from Edgemark, to donate the parking lot to the city, as not a workaround but a proposal that had been adjusted to accommodate neighbors’ requests.
“As much as I respect and appreciate the process that produced the Central Street Plan, perhaps this is an instance where the plan won’t work,” she said.
Furthermore, Grover said that a Chase Bank was a “much less noxious use” than the Citgo station that previously existed there.
Ald. Judy Fiske (1st ward), who was the only member of the city council to vote against the plan, said she agreed with the residents who had spoken at the meeting and that “it would take an extraordinary public benefit” to earn her vote.
Ald. Melissa Wynne (3rd ward), was not present to vote on the issue Monday night, due to illness.
In order to build a drive-through, Edgemark must still apply to the zoning board of appeals for a special use permit. If the zoning board of appeals recommends approval, the special use permit will go on to the city council for consideration. As part of standard city policy, neighbors within a 500-foot radius of the affected property will be mailed notice once an application is provided to the zoning board of appeals.