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Battle Over Northwestern’s Ryan Field Zoning Escalates, Residents Push Wilmette to Sue

Residents of Wilmette, Evanston implore Wilmette Village Board to sue Evanston so zoning changes to Ryan Field allowing concerts at rebuilt stadium will be reversed.

Battle Over Northwestern's Ryan Field Zoning Escalates, Residents Push Wilmette to Sue

Mock up for rebuilt Northwestern’s Ryan Stadium that would allow concertsPhoto byScreen Capture/Youtube Video [Creator]

In a heated dispute, residents of Wilmette and Evanston are rallying against the commercialization of Northwestern University’s Ryan Field, urging the Wilmette Village Board to take legal action against Evanston. The battle revolves around recent zoning changes that would permit concerts at the reconstructed stadium.

During a recent Wilmette board meeting, a united group of residents voiced concerns over property values and traffic congestion, emphasizing the impact of Evanston’s decisions on their community. Wilmette resident Steve Harper expressed that Evanston and Northwestern have put Wilmette in a challenging position, but he believes Wilmette is uniquely positioned to fight back.

Evanston City Council’s contentious 5-4 vote in November, with Mayor Daniel Biss breaking the tie, approved zoning changes allowing concerts at Ryan Field. This decision, part of the university’s athletic campus, permits up to six full-capacity concerts and unlimited smaller events during the expected three-year rebuild.

Residents opposing non-athletic use of the stadium argue that they chose the area for occasional football games, not to live near a concert venue. Despite Evanston’s Land Use Commission rejecting the concerts, the City Council’s approval aimed to secure a multimillion-dollar community benefits package. Concerned residents fear adverse impacts extending beyond the immediate vicinity.

Residents, including Wilmette’s Carl Hopman and real estate professional Mary Rosinski, predict a potential 5% to 11% drop in home prices, translating to around $100 million in lost home value and a significant decline in annual property tax revenue for the village.

Wilmette Village President Senta Plunkett expressed shared concerns about the concerts’ impact on neighborhoods, emphasizing Northwestern’s insufficient addressing of raised concerns. The board is contemplating legal action, considering the adverse effects on the community.

Another lawsuit, filed by the Most Livable City Association and 13 residents, alleges a “backroom deal” by some council members and a failure to follow due process. This lawsuit seeks to overturn the zoning changes, with MLCA President David DeCarlo emphasizing the importance of applying the law impartially.

Evanston’s response to a potential lawsuit from its neighboring community remains undisclosed, escalating tensions in this battle over the fate of Ryan Field.

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