Well over 100 people have signed a petition opposing construction of a Chase Bank drive-through at Gross Point Road and Crawford Avenue in Evanston—and the fight against its construction is just heating up.
At a hearing Wednesday night, members of the city’s Plan Commission voted to continue the discussion to the commission’s next meeting, after neighbors successfully argued that the city had not properly notified residents within a 500-foot radius of the site.
Edgemark Development has purchased two lots in order to construct a Chase Bank at the northwest Evanston intersection: a former gas station at 2628 Gross Point Road and a residential lot at 2635 Crawford Avenue. As required by city code, planners sent notifications to residents within a 500-foot radius of the Gross Point Road address—but not to residents within a 500-foot radius of the Crawford Avenue property.
“I could see there were a few houses on Hillside that should have been included, and some on Crawford,” said Crawford Avenue resident Joshua Huppert, who brought the issue to the Plan Commission’s attention Wednesday.
Commission members said they believed he had a point.
“I have all kinds of sympathy for staff planners who have to deal with this kind of stuff, having been one,” said Plan Commission member Jim Ford. “But the subject property clearly includes the 2635 Crawford address.”
Given the improper notification, the commission voted to re-notify residents before taking up the issue again at its next regularly scheduled meeting, 7 p.m. June 20, at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center.
Opposition to the drive-through
Neighbors who oppose the drive-through say their real issue is not with the city’s notification procedure, however, but with the bank’s plan to build a drive-through adjacent to a residential lot.
In a letter to their neighbors, Crawford Avenue residents Megan Lutz and Clark Murray cite concerns over traffic and their desire to preserve the neighborhood’s residential character as the basis of their opposition.
Developers for Chase Bank are seeking permission from the city to rezone the residential lot and build a drive-through at the site — acts that would ultimately require City Council approval.
“The 3-way intersection of Crawford, Gross Point and Central is already one of the most dangerous and congested intersections in Evanston,” the letter reads. “More traffic on the major streets will lead to more traffic on side streets as drivers look for short cuts and try to turn around.”
Additionally, neighbors want to protect the residential character of their neighborhood. Lutz and Murray live in the house just west of the residential lot Chase Bank purchased — meaning the drive-through would back up to the side of the home they’ve owned for the past 15 years.
“They bought it knowing they were surrounded by residential properties,” said Mary Summerville, a realtor who attended the meeting to speak on behalf of Lutz and Murray.
Summerville came to rebut the opinion of an appraiser hired by Chase Bank, who told the commission at an earlier meeting that the drive-through would have no effect on property values.
“I’m saying, of course it does,” Summerville said. “Think about it.”
Pointing to the layout of the proposed bank on a map, Summerville showed how the lights of cars turning into the 24-hour drive-through would shine into the windows of Lutz and Murray’s home.
The couple and their neighbors don’t oppose the bank itself, but hope the city will not approve the drive-through or the rezoning of their neighbor’s lot to commercial. If they collect signatures of at least 30 percent of the property owners within a 500 foot radius of the Chase Bank property, any zoning changes would require approval by 75 percent of City Council members.
So far, Lutz and Murray have collected signatures from 90 people who live within 500 feet of the property, and a total of 130 signatures.
“Zoning is to create zones to protect residents,” Lutz said. “We hold that that is a residential property,”
According to Lutz, the last time the city rezoned a property from residential to commercial was in 1997, for a at Main Street and Dodge Avenue.
Ironically, the former resident of the Walgreens site moved to a home on Crawford Avenue — directly across the street from the proposed Chase Bank drive-through.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story had incorrect information about ownership of the lots. They were purchased by Edgemark Development LLC. We sincerely regret the error.