The way property in the village of Riverside has been divided and subdivided through the years has obscured much of the intent of its original planners. What was envisioned as a country retreat for Chicago’s power brokers has evolved into a picturesque suburban retreat for a wider diversity of folks.
Except for a few instances scattered throughout the village, the grand nature of residential properties in Riverside has been somewhat diminished.
So when there’s a proposal to re-subdivide one of the village’s originally platted lots — this one in particular overlooking the Long Common at Shenstone Road — it’s worth a good long look before leaping.
Last week, the Riverside board decided that it didn’t want to deal with any more of these kinds of requests for the time being and imposed a six-month moratorium on accepting any more subdivision applications.
That, of course, doesn’t affect the one request currently on the table. The village’s Planning and Zoning Commission has already voted 6 to 0 to recommend denial of the application based on the zoning code, which calls for the village to “protect, to the maximum degree possible, historic sites, scenic points” etc.
That language is mighty vague, however. While the house at 225 Longcommon Road is indeed a designated “landmark” within the village of Riverside and its position on a large residential lot is surely “scenic,” we’re not so sure what a judge might think of those designations or of any implied definitions of “historic site” or “scenic point.”
Typically, when one thinks of a historic site, you think of something on the National Register of Historic Places, many of which are open to the public. Scenic points are typically, places from which a grand vista can be seen, not something at a corner of an intersection that’s simply nice to look at.
The village code does contain its historic preservation ordinance as a separate section, and that section clearly states an intent to preserve originally platted lots. However, the language directs the village board to action.
While opponents of the subdivision, and we counts ourselves among them, would like to believe the preservation ordinance and language in the zoning code itself may be sufficient to prohibit subdivision by right, the code is confusing enough that it has warranted further examination.
We’re unsure that the horse is out of the barn on 225 Longcommon Road. If it meets the land requirements for a subdivision (and there seems to be some debate brewing about just how big the parcel actually is) the village must make clear in the future, that originally platted lots like the one at 225 Longcommon Road aren’t cut up in order to accommodate more residential development.
Riverside is special for specific reasons, one of which were the vistas created by homes spaced out on large, park-like parcels of land. The village needs to work to preserve the few instances where those vistas remain intact.
And we’re hoping it’s not too late to do the same at 225 Longcommon Road.