Residents of Evanston and Wilmette join the Most Livable City Association in lawsuit against the City of Evanston’s commercial rezoning of Northwestern’s new football stadium.
Evanston, Ill. – The Most Livable City Association (MLCA), a non-profit focused on quality of life for all communities in and aroundEvanston and advocating for accountability in local government, filed a complaint today against the City of Evanston’s commercial rezoning of Northwestern University’s new Ryan Field. The suit, filed in the Chancery Division of the Circuit Court of Cook County, seeks a declaratory judgment invalidating the rezoning, among other requests for relief. Joining MLCA as plaintiffs are 13 residents of Evanston and Wilmette.
In voting to approve the commercial rezoning of the new Ryan Field,“Mayor [Daniel] Biss and certain councilmembers cut a backroom deal in which they agreed to disregard applicable laws and evidence in exchange for monetary contributions from Northwestern,” the complaint states.
The complaint further details how, guided by Mayor Biss, “Evanston systematically aided Northwestern throughout the zoning process, seeking a predetermined outcome: the approval of Northwestern’s proposed zoning amendment.” For example, Mayor Biss and certain councilmembers were negotiating secretly with Northwestern in over a dozen meetings dating back to at least January, according to Freedom of Information Act requests. While the Evanston Land Use Commission carefully weighed hours of testimony and over 1,500 pages of submissions in September and October and voted 7-2 against the rezoning, Evanston officials refused to consider this voluminous evidence in good faith.
By taking numerous clandestine steps to assist Northwesternthroughout the process and ignoring the clear evidence, the City of Evanston violated plaintiffs’ due process rights. This culminated withEvanston officials ignoring the law as they continued to adhere to their deal with Northwestern: On November 20th, the City of Evanston purported to approve the rezoning with only five “yes” votes from Mayor Biss and four councilmembers, but this violated provisions ofthe Evanston Code and the Illinois Municipal Code requiring additional votes to approve a zoning amendment.
“Our elected officials failed to follow the law and that’s why we’re bringing this suit,” said MLCA President David DeCarlo. “The law exists to protect us all, and it has to be applied impartially — with no exceptions for billionaires or powerful institutions.”