225 Longcommon Road, Riverside

An application to re-subdivide an originally platted Riverside residential lot in order to create a new buildable parcel next to a local landmark home was given thumbs down by the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission on Aug. 26.

Commissioners voted 6 to 0 to recommend that the Riverside Village Board deny Daniel Jisa the ability to divide the approximately 33,000-square-foot lot at 225 Longcommon Road in two.

The parcel is home to the grand Victorian-era John F. Palmer House, built in 1895 and designed by noted architect Joseph Lyman Silsbee. The home was designated Riverside Landmark No. 36 in 1993.

The three-story Tudor-inspired estate gives an idea of how Riverside’s designer, Frederick Law Olmsted, envisioned the village. The lot, which is about three quarters of an acre, comfortably frames the estate, which overlooks Longcommon and Shenstone roads.

Jisa’s plan called for maintaining the historic home on a lot measuring 21,017 square feet and creating a buildable lot to the north of 11,533 square feet.

The Aug. 26 public hearing on Jisa’s application drew a standing-room-only crowd to Room 4 of the Riverside Township Hall, and more than a dozen people — including three former village presidents — spoke out passionately against the proposed subdivision.

“If we turn loose one subdivision then, in fact, we have created a monster,” said Joseph DiNatale, who pleaded with planning and zoning commissioners to deny the application. “What you’re saying is your plan commission wants to change the community forever.”

DiNatale served as village president from 1989-97. It was during his first term in office that the village’s Historic Preservation Ordinance was passed in 1991.

Former presidents Paul Stack and Harold J. Wiaduck Jr. also spoke against the subdivision, citing the text and the intent of the preservation ordinance for the basis of their opposition.

Stack, like DiNatale, said allowing the subdivision of Jisa’s property would set a dangerous precedent, one that would lead to other requests.

“This is basically the end of Riverside as we know it,” said Stack.

Wiaduck called 225 Longcommon Road “one of the finest properties in Riverside, if not the finest” and said it was village government’s duty to maintain the integrity of the community.

Wiaduck was Riverside president at the time the village revised its zoning code in 2005.  

“The intent of the current code strongly suggests that subdivisions be restricted if not eliminated,” Wiaduck said. “I think it would be a great mistake to slice up that property.”

Jisa’s neighbors also strongly opposed the application for subdivision, worrying principally that allowing another home to be built north of the estate would increase backyard flooding.

One Shenstone Road resident handed a letter signed by five other Shenstone homeowners opposing the subdivision specifically related to the issue of backyard flooding.

“All of that water is going to flow down to our yards,” she said.

Jisa bought the house at 225 Longcommon Road in 2009 for $1.45 million. The property is presently listed for sale at $1.8 million. On Aug. 26, he told planning and zoning commissioners that subdividing the land was a way to protect his investment.

“The most logical way to recoup our investment is to subdivide it this way,” Jisa said.

In voting to recommend denial of the subdivision, planning and zoning commissioners zeroed in on a one sentence of the village’s zoning code regarding subdivisions, which states that the intent of the code is to “protect, to the maximum degree possible, historic sites, scenic points, desirable natural areas and other environmentally sensitive features worthy of preservation.”

“As commissioners, we need to consider all residents and the landmark status [of the village] and potential ramifications of the decisions we might make,” said Commissioner Jill Mateo. “People are not eager to have this property divided.”

The commission’s recommendation will be sent to the village board, which will have the final say on whether or not the property can be subdivided.