Gravel driveways may survive as option

Riverside trustees send issue back to plan commission

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By IGOR STUDENKOV

Contributing Reporter

Riverside's village board decided to hold off changing regulations regarding gravel driveways until a few issues could be cleared up.

It was originally scheduled to approve the changes during its Jan. 16 meeting. The proposed amendment would allow homeowners to keep their current gravel driveways and require them to maintain them, but if they sell the property, the new owners would be required to replace the gravel within a year. The historic landmark homes with decorative pea gravel driveways would be exempt from the later requirement. 

But during the course of the ensuing discussion, the trustees wondered whether they should allow pea gravel on all homes due to its permeable properties. There were also concerns that the village didn't catalogue every single property that would be affected by the changes. The board decided to send the amendment back to the Riverside Planning and Zoning Commission for further consideration – which would mean the board wouldn't be addressing the issue until March at the earliest.

As Sonya Abt, Riverside's community development director, explained during the Jan. 16 meeting, when the Planning and Zoning Commission considered a request for a gravel driveway variation for the property at 124-128 Barrypoint Rd., the commission members felt that the existing regulations were unclear and recommended that the village address that. Staff originally proposed requiring homeowners to replace gravel driveways within three years. But concerns about the properties' historical character and the costs involved led the commission to recommend the changes that ultimately went before the board.

There was also the matter of flood mitigation. As Abt noted in her presentation, the village engineer found that driveways that use pea gravel would be considered permeable. In other words, the water would seep into the ground, reducing the strain on the sewers. 

Resident Tom Holecek, who said his driveway has "a tiny bit of gravel," wondered whether the village's list of properties with gravel driveways truly includes every single property. In the ensuing discussion, the staff and the board decided that this would be worth double-checking.

Trustee Elizabeth Peters wondered why the committee recommended a pea gravel exemption for historic buildings. Abt responded that it was due to concerns about historic character. Peters then wondered why, given its permeable properties, pea gravel wasn't allowed at non-landmarked properties.

"That's how the [zoning] code was written at the time," Abt responded, adding that the zoning commission didn't address that question.

"It just feels – if the pea gravel is permeable, I can see people wanting to use it because it's the cheaper [permeable pavement] option, but maybe they don't have the designation," Peters said.

Abt said that one issue she sees is that it makes shoveling snow more difficult than it would be with "standard paved driveways."

Trustee Wendell Jisa said that he agreed with Peters, both for environmental and aesthetic reasons, while Trustee Alexander Gallegos supported that position on environmental grounds.

Village President Ben Sells wondered if the amendment could be changed to permit pea gravel in non-landmark homes. But after some further discussion, the board agreed to let the planning and zoning commission weigh in on the idea. 

After some further discussion, all trustees present voted to remand the ordinance back to the committee of discussion, which is expected to take place during its Feb. 26 meeting. Trustee Edward Hannon was absent.

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