Anyone thinking about subdividing property in Riverside is going to have to wait at least another six months to do so. On Sept. 3, the Riverside Village Board voted 5 to 0 to place a 180-day moratorium on accepting any new applications for property subdivisions.
The move came in the wake of a controversial application, still pending a vote by the village board, to subdivide the property at 225 Longcommon Road, which includes a lot originally platted when the village was laid out by Frederick Law Olmsted in 1869. At some point a smaller, irregularly shaped lot to the north was added to the parcel, which covers about three-quarters of an acre.
Village trustees voted to impose the moratorium following a public hearing on the matter, which took place just prior to the board’s regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 3.
During the next six months, village staff will work on new language that may be added to the village code to clarify its intent with respect to subdivisions, if needed. The process likely will include input from various village advisory commissions and will conclude with action taken by the village board.
The moratorium does not affect the application for the subdivision of 225 Longcommon Road, which the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission voted 6 to 0 against recommending on Aug. 26.
There is some concern by opponents of that subdivision request, which include former village presidents Joseph DiNatale, Paul Stack and Harold J. Wiaduck Jr., that the 225 Longcommon application will slip under the net cast by the moratorium.
“The board has the necessary tools in place that it needs right now to make this decision,” Wiaduck told the village board on Sept. 3. “Just open the tool box and look at it.”
Village trustees are expected to take up the 225 Longcommon Road subdivision request at their next regularly scheduled meeting on Sept. 17 at 7 p.m. at the Riverside Township Hall.
“Given the history of the current board and the individuals serving on it, I’m sure there will be a robust conversation regarding the subdivision request,” said Village Manager Jessica Frances.
The village’s attorney and community development director had recommended to the Planning and Zoning Commission that the 225 Longcommon Road subdivision be allowed since, they said, it conformed to standards in the subdivision code.
Daniel Jisa, the owner of the Longcommon Road property, wishes to divide the property in order to create a buildable lot to the north of his home, a grand Victorian estate designed by Joseph Lyman Silsbee in about 1895.
The house was designated a local Riverside landmark in 1993. That was two years after the village passed its preservation ordinance, which is part of the village code. That ordinance specifically discourages the subdivision of originally platted lots like Jisa’s.
However, Attorney Michael Marrs called the preservation ordinance’s language advisory and maintained that the subdivision ordinance in the zoning code took precedence.
The planning commission believed that the village’s subdivision law was clear enough in allowing officials great latitude in protecting historic features of the village. The law 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.”
But they were concerned enough by village staff’s interpretation of the village code and its potentially conflicting statements that, following the Aug. 26 public hearing on Jisa’s subdivision application, planning commissioners publicly wondered if village staff could re-examine the village code in order to prevent conflicting interpretations in the future.
“If you go by the letter of what’s in [the subdivision ordinance, Jisa’s] request satisfies all the requirements,” Planning and Zoning Commission Chairman Paul Kucera said in a phone interview. “But it becomes less clear when you take into consideration the scope and intent of those provisions [in the preservation ordinance].
“That’s what motivated me to bring it up in new business after the hearing — to remove the ambiguity.”
Kucera said he not only wanted to clarify the language in the code, but he wanted to make sure the village’s Preservation Commission would be looped into the process, perhaps prior to such a request getting to the Planning and Zoning Commission.