Wilmette reaches tentative deal with Evanston over Ryan Field noise, traffic issues

Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/TNS

The village of Wilmette announced it has reached a tentative agreement with neighboring Evanston over concerns that concerts and other events hosted at Northwestern University’s Ryan Field will cause undue inconvenience to nearby residents.

In a newsletter sent out by the village Friday afternoon, Wilmette’s Village Board said it has negotiated an intergovernmental agreement with Evanston as an alternative to litigation.

The agreement still needs the approval of both towns’ governing boards.

“This agreement will deliver immediate, tangible protections to Wilmette residents which cannot be guaranteed through a lengthy and uncertain legal proceeding,” according to the news release.

The agreement states traffic from construction, concert set-up and concert attendance cannot be directed into Wilmette. Evanston is also required to have a construction management representative on-site during demolition and construction and continue to support Northwestern’s reimbursement of police and public works expenses from events held at Ryan Field. Wilmette will also be able to review and provide feedback for plans regarding construction, stadium security, traffic management and concert operations before Evanston can approve.

To monitor the impact of the demolition and rebuild, vibration monitoring devices are required to be installed per the agreement. Once construction is complete, sound measurement devices must be installed in Wilmette and the village will be consulted in sound mitigation strategies.

Northwestern is responsible for paying any fines imposed by Evanston for exceeding noise level thresholds and if violations are also detected by sound measuring devices placed in Wilmette, the village is entitled to half of the money collected by Evanston.

Evanston has to notify the village of an event within three business days of notification from the university. The city also agrees to “vigorously enforce any violations of its city code, and ordinances relating to the demolition of Ryan Field and the construction, planning, operation, use of the Ryan Field Complex caused by NU, its contractors, vendors, and users of the Ryan Field Complex.”

A representative for the village will be appointed to the Evanston/Northwestern Community Advisory Committee, which will meet at least twice a year to review how effective plans are, receive updates on construction and gather and discuss information regarding the operation of all facilities in the zoning district. The committee also includes three representatives from the university and three appointed by Evanston.

Concern over the planned use of Ryan Field as a concert venue began in Wilmette after the university told Evanston noise will be directed north away from the city and toward Wilmette. Some residents began campaigning for Wilmette’s Village Board to consider litigation against Evanston after its City Council narrowly voted 5-4, with Mayor Daniel Biss breaking the tie, to approve the rezoning of the stadium to allow for at least six full capacity concerts a year along with numerous other events. Council also voted 6-2 to allow for the demolition of the nearly 100 year old stadium and its over $800 million rebuild.

Wilmette’s Village Board voted to approve a resolution opposing the commercial use of the stadium beyond college athletics in August 2023.

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Wilmette Village President Senta Plunkett spoke at several Evanston meetings prior to the vote expressing the village’s opposition to the plans.

The village stated in its release it retains the option to pursue future litigation if necessary.

“Protecting residents from demolition, construction and prospective concerts at NU’s Ryan Field has and continues to be a major focus of the village,” Plunkett said. “It is important for our residents to know that the village will continue to advocate on their behalf and ultimately reserves the option to take further actions to protect the community should substantial harm be caused by the operations of Ryan Field.”

The Wilmette Village Board plans to vote on the agreement during its Tuesday board meeting with Evanston voting on it Monday at the regular City Council meeting.

Wilmette Village Manager Michael Braiman said the proposed agreement has the full support of the Wilmette Village Board and expects it to pass unanimously.

“Our objective is to establish and maintain a mutually beneficial relationship with Wilmette while ensuring that the concerns and opinions of our community neighbors are taken into account,” said an Evanston spokesperson. “We believe that open and respectful communication is key to achieving this goal, and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions that work for everyone involved.”