A few weeks ago there was some discussion about the village of Riverside contemplating the regulation of tear-downs in town. I too have noticed the increasing numbers of properties being sold and torn down in Riverside just as in many of the suburbs west of us.
I believe that there are many sides to this issue in all towns, but Riverside needs to take a particularly hard look at it. We are a historic village that has a national landmark status. That places us in a unique position in regard to the replacing of older structures.
Riverside is held up to national scrutiny, with many people visiting us to tour the beautiful and thoughtful landscape and city planning by Frederick law Olmsted. Most of us live in this town because of its beauty and historic presence. I cannot imagine this town without the Victorian structures, without the open spaces between the homes and without the scale of the homes remaining in keeping with the scale of the landscape.
The new homes that are being built are both much larger than the original homes on the lots as well as much taller than the surrounding homes. Some that have tried to be sensitive to fitting into the neighborhood’s style still have not compromised on the precious square footage, and have increased the density of our neighborhoods.
There is an argument that says that the buyer of a property has every right to do whatever they please with their property. What about the rights of the rest of the property owners on the block?
A friend of mine was searching for a home to buy and looked at 95 homes before finding the perfect one in Riverside. It was a lovely 1915 home with a deep lot and many trees around it, making it an excellent home in which to raise her children.
She lived there happily for more than ten years before the home next door went up for sale. It was not a beautiful home and was destined to be torn down.
A huge Victorian-esque home was built in its place, obliterating her kitchen window view. The home behind her was renovated and expanded at about the same time, and a home on the other side of her was soon torn down and built much larger. The perfect home that she bought thirteen years ago was dwarfed by the new houses and now seems out of place.
She is worried that it will not be as desirable to future buyers and destined to be a tear down in the future. …
To her, the excellent investment that she made in a wonderful neighborhood doesn’t seem so excellent anymore. The cost of the quality of life turned out to be much more than the monetary values attached. When she bought a home in Riverside, should she have had the expectation that the character of her neighborhood, as well as her space and privacy would be protected by the village? It doesn’t seem an unreasonable expectation to me.
Of course, we cannot live in the 21st century without expecting things to change. … What I don’t understand is why one would think that Riverside is the place for them if they don’t appreciate what makes it unique. Our quality of living is what makes our home values stay high.
The appreciation for the historical nature of this town is what makes people love our community. The lack of density of our homes is what makes our neighborhoods enjoyable and the beautiful trees on our properties are what make our properties special.
If a home no longer suits the needs of a family, it used to be that the family moved to another home. It was a logical solution to a problem. If a home did not fill the needs of a family looking for a new home, then they simply did not buy that one. It saddens me to see that the solution to the growing family is no longer to simply find another home that suits their needs, but to tear down the old structure and rebuild a much larger one. …
Being a historical village makes the character of our structures all the more important. If one does not feel that there is value in that fact, then they should be happy in LaGrange or Hinsdale or any of the other lovely towns surrounding us that have torn down the older homes and rebuilt much larger structures on a regular basis. …
I can only hope that Riverside does not fall to the pressures of developers or unappreciative homeowners and makes the protection of lot density, trees and neighborhood character a priority, thereby preserving the quality of our historical landmark status village for future generations.
Chandra Reynolds is a Riverside resident.