The Riverside Preservation Commission last week voted to deny a certificate of appropriateness to consolidate and re-subdivide a residential lot containing a landmark home, ruling that such a subdivision runs counter to the zoning code’s call for protecting the large residential lots remaining in the village.

The commission voted 4 to 3 to deny the certificate of appropriateness and then voted 6 to 1 to deny a motion stating that the subdivision would not have a negative impact on the village’s status on the National Register of Historic Places or Olmsted’s General Plan for Riverside.

“I feel we should maintain the fabric of Riverside as much as it was intended by Olmsted,” said Sander Kaplan, who along with commissioners Charles Pipal, Aberdeen Marsh-Ozga and Michael Leary voted against issuing the certificate of appropriateness.

Commissioners Richard Ray, Thomas Walsh and Patricia Baum voted to issue a certificate of appropriateness, but only Ray believed that the resulting re-subdivision would not negatively affect the village place on the register of Historic Places or the General Plan.

Ray said maintaining the lot as it is presently subdivided opens the village up to potential future problems. There is some debate as to whether any of the four lots that comprise the parcel at 247 Shenstone Road is buildable.

Sonya Abt, the village’s director of community development, argued that it was unlikely, even if any of the lots were large enough, could be built upon, because doing so would make the existing home a non-conforming structure.

Ray wasn’t convinced.

“This just perpetuates a problem,” Ray said. “Consolidating the lots is an advantage to the property and an advantage to the village. … The advantage to the village outweighs the disadvantages of letting it go unresolved.”

The owners of the Shenstone Road home, William O’Connor and Jane McCahill, requested consolidating the four lots that comprise their more than half-acre property and then re-subdivide it in a way that would create a new, buildable lot along the North Cowley Road frontage of the property.

O’Connor and McCahill have owned the property since 1992 and enthusiastically supported an application to name their home, designed by Howard Van Doren Shaw, a local landmark in 1993.

The property has a somewhat complicated zoning history. Originally, the property was a single parcel, but it was apparently subdivided into four lots in the early 1960s. It’s unclear why that subdivision request was made and granted at that time. 

When he bought the property in 1992, O’Connor said he purchased one of the lots with a separate deed. He financed the purchase of the southernmost lot privately with the seller and obtained a mortgage for the rest from a bank.

According to O’Connor, there are surveys indicating that the 1960s subdivision created three buildable lots in terms of the square footage required for that residential zoning district. 

Abt disputes that conclusion, but said in any case none of those lots could be built on without creating a fatal non-conformity regarding the existing home.

O’Connor argued that consolidating the lots into two parcels would protect the landmark home by providing it with a large corner lot that could not be further re-subdivided.

Secondarily, it would create a new lot on which he and his wife would like to build a smaller home that would complement the landmark structure. O’Connor has the home for sale and has a purchase agreement with a buyer, but it’s contingent on the re-subdivision plan.

The Preservation Commission’s denial of a certificate of appropriateness effectively stopped the subdivision process in its tracks. O’Connor and McCahill could seek reconsideration by the commission, which would involve a formal public hearing.

If the commission holds firm on its denial, the couple could appeal the decision to the Riverside Village Board and, ultimately, circuit court.

Paul Stack, who is O’Connor’s law partner and is representing the couple in this request, said last week that an appeal of the commission’s ruling was “likely.”

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