In the face of an ever-increasing number of teardowns in Riverside, the village’s Preservation Commission last week discussed a measure that might delay demolitions in order to prevent historically significant homes from being torn down without review.
Commission members reviewed a draft ordinance prepared by Village Manager Kathleen Rush.
“My concern is that Riverside does not become like Western Springs,” said commission member Melissa Kotrba, referencing the west suburban community where teardowns have become commonplace in recent years.
Under the draft ordinance, all applications for a demolition permit would first come before the Preservation Commission, which would determine whether the building to be demolished is a building that contributes the historic nature of Riverside.
A “contributing structure”?”defined as one that is a designated landmark, or one that meets the criteria for a landmark, but has not been formally designated as a landmark, or one that, while not meeting the criteria of a landmark, contributes to the overall special characteristics of the Riverside Landscape Architectural District?”would undergo a review process of at least 180 days before it could be torn down.
If the Preservation Commission designates a structure as a noncontributing structure it then could be torn town without further review.
“The intent of the ordinance is to slow down the process,” said commission Chairman Charles Pipal.
“It puts the brakes on tearing down homes willy nilly,” said Commissioner Thomas Walsh. “What we’re saying to people is that if you’re going to buy a piece of property to tear it down, you run the risk of delays. If nothing else, developers are going to be reluctant to willy nilly buy those houses if they know they will have to wait 180 days.”
Pipal said the delays would cause most developers interested in teardowns to concentrate their efforts in other communities where such impediments do not exist.
Commissioner Chris Robling expressed some reservations about the proposed ordinance, fearing that such an ordinance will harm some Riverside residents who are trying to sell their homes.
“Inevitably we will be creating a hardship to some,” Robling said. “It’s a property right of the owner that we’re alienating.”
Pipal recognized that issue, but considered it part of the commission’s work.
“That’s what we do,” Pipal said in response to Robling’s comment. “That’s our charge.”
Pipal said he is not automatically opposed to all teardowns.
“I’m not against teardowns per se, because they have torn down some real dogs and put up some nice houses.”
The commission will again take up the issue at its October meeting. Any ordinance would have to passed by the village board before it could take effect.
The Riverside Preservation Commission voted unanimously last week to grant landmark status to the Prairie style home at 261 Maplewood Road owned by Beth and Mark Wenzel. The home was built around 1914 for Cora Wagner, who bought the property from Edith McCormick, the daughter of Standard Oil founder John Rockefeller, who had married the son the Cyrus McCormick, who invented the reaper and founded the International Harvester company.
Beth Wenzel nominated the home for landmark status, and it is one of only three landmark homes in Riverside that were nominated for landmark status by their owners according to Commissioner Richard Ray.
Commission members thanked Wenzel for bringing her home to their attention.
“We’re looking for landmark homes,” said commission Vice Chair Nancy Foley.
Wenzel said that she wanted to make sure her home would still be around so that when her children grow up and perhaps show their own children where they grew up.
Riverside village trustees will consider the commission’s recommendation at an upcoming meeting of the village board.