January 26, 2005


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Riverside coach house rules not unreasonable

I am writing in response to Paul Straka's letter in the Jan. 12 edition of the Landmark ("Our coach houses are not our own). In his letter, Mr. Straka complains that the Village of Riverside will not allow everyone in the village with a coach house or other accessory building on their property to use that building for residential purposes. Mr. Straka implies that the village's policy on this subject is not only unreasonable but a form of totalitarian repression reminiscent of the Soviet Union.

The village's position on the residential use of accessory buildings has been in place since 1922, when the village first adopted a zoning ordinance. The basis for that prohibition was the belief that most of Riverside should be used for single-family residential purposes.

In other words, most of Riverside should be divided into lots and each lot should have one home on it with one family living in the home. I believe that most residents of Riverside still prefer that Riverside remain single family in character.

To allow all accessory buildings to be used for residential purposes would have the potential effect of converting a single-family neighborhood into a multifamily neighborhood. Even if the rule were limited to one accessory building per lot, the potential result would be to double the number of families living in the village, with twice the number of people and twice the number of cars, traffic and congestion.

The village board evaluated this issue in 2002. At the time, a concern was expressed that there are a number of coach houses in Riverside that are architecturally and/or historically significant, and that it is difficult financially for a property owner to maintain such a coach house in addition to the main house.

The suggestion was made that if such a coach house could be used for residential purposes, that might generate a stream of revenue to the owner that could be used to maintain the coach house, thereby preserving it as an important part of the village's historical and architectural character.

The village board agreed, and provided that a coach house that qualifies and is designated as a local landmark under the village's Historic Preservation Ordinance could be used for residential purposes.

Since then, a number of owners have applied for landmark status for their coach houses, and many have been approved and designated as local landmarks. This designation has the additional benefit of insuring that such buildings will not be torn down or remodeled in a manner inconsistent with their original design.

The village board concluded that creating an exception for the relatively few coach houses that qualify for landmark status was justified by the need to preserve those buildings, and would not have a severe adverse impact on the character of the community.

However, the village board also concluded that there was no justification to allow all accessory buildings to be used for residential purposes and that to do so would jeopardize the character of Riverside as a primary single-family community. I have learned nothing since then that changes my opinion.

Harold J. Wiaduck Jr.
Riverside Village President

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