Plans to start the city's first gourmet food truck like those cropping up across the country prompted major concern from residents at the 1st Ward meeting held Tuesday. That, along with concerns over increasing criminal activity and confusion about the library board's new funding proposal, took up the bulk of the meeting led by Alderwoman Judy Fiske.
Mobile Food Trucks
According to Fiske and City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz, the truck proposed by the owners of Campagnola Restaurant and Union Pizzeria, both on Chicago Avenue, wouldn't be like one of the "roach coaches" that sell premade sandwiches and other fast-food items. Instead, the planned truck would offer an upscale twist on mobile food carts, complete with an entire kitchen inside. Similar businesses are quickly spreading across the country, gaining something of a cult following, including the Gaztro-Wagon in Chicago, which provides daily updates on its whereabouts on its Twitter feed.
The issue, according to city officials, is that no current ordinance exists to govern and place limitations on how and where such businesses could operate.
Evanston "needs to figure out an ordinance that makes sense for us," said Fiske. "I think it speaks well of Evanston to be open to this kind of thing, but this is Evanston and it has to fit Evanston."
Fiske said that many local restaurateurs are concerned that the truck would take business away from them and that it wouldn't be subject to the same regulations that they face.
A copy of the proposed ordinance, which will be voted on at the City Council meeting on Sept. 13, can be found on the 1st Ward's website.
The city looked at similar ordinances in other cities and came up with one loosely based on the one instituted in Minneapolis, according to Bobkiewicz. It restricts such trucks from operating within 100 feet of another food establishment and restricts them from operating within 100 feet of any city-owned park or other property where the city has a franchise with an eatery.
The Evanston ordinance would specifically outline the control the City Council has over the mobile businesses.
Bobkiewicz was also on hand to briefly discuss the new library funding model. Last month, in accordance with state law, the library's board of trustees took steps to gain more control over its budget by voting to establish a public library fund. The model will allow the board to levy a tax, if need be.
In other words, the City Council would be obligated to put a certain percentage of assessed property taxes -- established by the library board – into a special library fund. State law allows the library board to have such authority, but it has never before been exercised in Evanston.
Bobkiewicz said the full effect of the decision is not yet clear, and many more details still need to be worked out. The issue will be part of the agenda of Monday's City Council meeting.
Should the library board determine that it requires a larger percentage of the taxes in order to fulfill operating costs, the City Council will have to find ways to either cut back in other areas or raise property taxes overall. City officials have asked for more information on the library system's operating costs.
Previously, the City Council threatened to close two branch libraries to save money. The ensuing community uproar prompted the Evanston Public Library Friends to raise $164,000 for the Evanston Public Library.
Evanston police officer Tanya Noble spoke about recent incidents of criminal activity, including a shooting that took place near the Davis CTA train station on Aug. 8.
According to police, two teenagers were shot when a group of juveniles from Evanston encountered a group from Chicago and an altercation ensued. Officers were responding to a nearby street stop at Benson Avenue and Church Street when they heard gunshots.
When officers arrived at the scene, they found a crowd of about 50 teenagers. One male had been shot in the stomach and another had been shot in the neck. Both have been released from the hospital and police are continuing to interview those who were at the scene. No arrests have been made yet.
Noble also said burglaries and other property thefts have increased in the past year and urged residents to make sure they lock their home and car doors as well as keep valuables out of public view. She also touted the successes of neighborhood watches in helping to prevent thefts and keeping police aware of any suspicious activities.
Tuesday's meeting also included a brief update on proposals by the utility company, Nicor, to replace a number of gas mains next summer. It was also revealed that the city will have to cut down nearly 30 trees – the bulk of which are rotting or near dead – in order for the state to complete its bike path project along the lake front.
Complaints about Northwestern University's shuttle buses were shelved until the next ward meeting, which will be held Dec. 7.