It appears that the 35 property owners in Riverside whose homes and apartment buildings still have either crushed gravel driveways or gravel parking pads will be able to maintain them forever, after elected officials signaled support for it last week.
At the village board’s meeting on June 4, the first since mid-March to be held in person at the Riverside Township Hall, trustees unanimously agreed they would grandfather existing gravel driveways into the code. Such driveways would be regulated by the building and property maintenance codes, not zoning code, as in the past.
Trustees are expected to pass an ordinance making the gravel driveways legal non-conforming structures in perpetuity at their next meeting on June 18.
The ordinance will also make a couple of other changes, including one that could result in even more gravel driveways in Riverside – but of a very specific kind.
The new code will allow a range of new permeable materials to the approved list, which now includes concrete, asphalt, natural stone and brick or concrete pavers. As amended, the code will also allow permeable materials, including decorative pea gravel, which now is only allowed to be used for driveways at locally landmarked homes, such as the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed Coonley House.
Community Development Director Sonya Abt confirmed that if trustees pass the amended code as proposed, as long as the pea gravel sits atop an appropriately permeable sub-base, such driveways would be allowed for all residential properties in the village.
The decision on June 18 will ease the minds of property owners who have gravel driveways, since one proposal recommended by the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission last December suggested ordering gravel driveways replaced within a year of a property being sold.
Prior to the village board’s discussion of the issue on June 4, several residents pleaded with trustees to grandfather their gravel driveways.
“I don’t see that there’s real any positive impact to the village and public health, public safety, comfort, convenience or general welfare of the village,” said 78-year-old John Plunkett, a resident of Pine Avenue who has lived with a gravel driveway for the past 25 years. “Nor do I see there’s any relative gain to the public as compared to the hardship imposed on 35 families.”
Kenneth Karpez, another Pine Avenue resident who has lived in the village 55 years and is on a fixed income, said requiring him to repave his gravel driveway was “financially impossible.”
He said it would cost $15,000 to repave the driveway. Such an expense would also decrease the value of his property, if he chose to sell it, because the new owner would have to take that expense into account.
Trustees voiced strong support for the residents’ position, agreeing that the public benefit for eliminating gravel driveways was far outweighed by the individual financial burden of either replacing the driveway or lowering a home sale price to get it accomplished later.
“Anytime we impose a standard on our residents and there’s a cost to it, that cost has to be less than the impact on the public interest,” said Trustee Doug Pollock. “I don’t see a compelling reason why we as a local government need to impose that cost on residents who have gravel driveways.”
Trustee Elizabeth Peters noted that at one time gravel driveways were commonplace but now accounted for a fraction of driveways in the village. The market itself was eliminating the gravel driveways over time, and she saw no reason to speed up that process.
“The market is working to address this issue,” Peters said. “It’s slower than maybe what would be considered through code amendment or whatnot, but to me it’s clearly working and the market will drive it eventually smaller than 35.”