A longtime Riverside resident who wants to subdivide his property, which contains a local landmark home, will be the first to undergo a more rigorous review process aimed at preserving large residential lots in the village.
William O’Connor, an attorney and one-time state representative, seeks to subdivide his property at 247 Shenstone Road, which covers nearly an acre on a corner lot at North Cowley Road.
The property actually comprises four separate parcels, three of which are considered “buildable” in the homes R-1AA zoning district, which requires parcels have a 75-foot front lot width, an average lot width of 66 feet and cover at least 10,500 square feet. The fourth lot is a pie-shaped 425-square-foot sliver along the western property line which is 18 inches at its narrowest point.
O’Connor wants to consolidate the lots and then re-subdivide them into two large lots – a 26,728-square-foot lot containing the historic home and a 10,601-square foot lot where O’Connor would like to build a new residence for him and his wife.
The subdivision request will be the subject of discussion at the Dec. 8 meeting of the Riverside Preservation Commission at 7 p.m. at the Riverside Township Hall, 27 Riverside Road.
It will be the first time the commission has been involved in such a discussion, and their involvement is the direct result of a 2015 application that sought to subdivide a large lot just down the block from O’Connor’s home, at the corner of Shenstone and Longcommon.
The Longcommon/Shenstone homeowner withdrew his subdivision request over discrepancies between information on the property’s plat of survey and Cook County records.
In that case, the owner sought to create a second buildable lot through subdivision of the property. The present case differs in that O’Connor’s property already includes a buildable lot on which he could build a new home, according to Paul Stack, who is O’Connor’s law partner and wrote a letter supporting O’Connor’s application. Stack is a past president of the village of Riverside.
“It’s really a preservation move,” said Stack in a phone interview. “They want to ensure that the property on which there’s historic house can’t be subdivided in the future.”
Stack, coincidentally, was a vocal opponent of the Longcommon/Shenstone subdivision and his involvement was responsible in part for stricter subdivision rules enacted in the wake of that case.
In March, the Riverside Village Board added language to the subdivision ordinance stating that the law is in place to “help preserve the village’s national historic landmark designation and the General Plan’s preference for large residential lots.”
In addition, the ordinance now states that any subdivision “shall protect, to the maximum degree possible, historic sites, scenic points, desirable natural areas and other environmentally sensitive features worthy of continued preservation.”
Finally, the law now requires anyone seeking to subdivide property containing a landmark structure to obtain a certificate of appropriateness from the Preservation Commission.
The subdivision request would then be considered by the Planning and Zoning Commission for a recommendation to the village board, which has the final say on any subdivision application.
O’Connor said the re-subdivision would serve to safeguard any further subdivision of the property to create another buildable lot. It would also, if O’Connor decides to move ahead with building a new home on the smaller parcel, allow a design that complements the existing 1912 Georgian Revival home designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw. Riverside designated the seven-bedroom home a local landmark in 1993, the year after O’Connor purchased it.
“In my humble opinion, the home is one of the gems of Riverside,” said O’Connor. “We really want to see this property protected, and the way to do it is to rationalize the existing survey.”
With the proposed re-subdivision, said O’Connor, “the odds of the middle lot [Lot 3 on the accompanying map] being used for a house will disappear.”
Both the Shenstone/Longcommon and Shenstone/Cowley subdivision requests were made partially out of financial considerations. In his letter supporting O’Connor’s application, Stack mentions that the home has a pending sales contract and that subdivision “would allow the conveyance of the residence.”
The Longcommon/Shenstone home was also listed for sale at the time of that application.
In addition, according to Stack, the property taxes on O’Connor’s existing four-parcel lot are “absolutely punitive.” According to Cook County records, O’Connor paid $29,938 in real estate taxes for the four parcels combined for 2015. Prior to the real estate crash, which subsequently lowered property assessments throughout Riverside, taxes on the home topped $35,000 annually.
By re-subdividing the property and building on the smaller of the two parcels, said Stack, O’Connor’s taxes would “still be bad, but bearable.”
O’Connor told the Landmark that he’s had offers through the years to sell the southernmost buildable parcel, but he’s declined, because he was sensitive to the historic nature of the property.
“We’d like to control the design to make sure it fits in with the [original] house and community,” O’Connor said.