Demolition delay an attack on property rights

Opinion

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Michael J. Flight, One View

This is in reference to the proposed ordinance in the Village of Riverside regulating teardowns ("Commission explores home demolition delay," News, Sept. 14) by instituting a prolonged review process to ascertain weather a structure "contributes to the historic nature of Riverside."

If instituted this ordinance would be an attack on the U.S. Constitution and the property rights of all tax payers and property owners in Riverside.

The ordinance, if enacted, would lower the value of all homes and property in Riverside. Preservation Commission member Melissa Kotrba worries about Riverside becoming "more like Western Springs." I worry about this ordinance unlawfully reducing the value and potential of my property.

I am appalled by the fact that the commission members are so blatant in their reasoning to delay and halt "developers" from building in Riverside. They want the power to arbitrarily decide what you can do with your property if they consider it a "contributing" structure. Who defines what a "contributing" structure is?

My block had a four room shack that was unattractive and not well maintained. If this new ordinance was in effect, that house would have real value before it was ever put on the market! The senior citizen who owned the house would have only received offers from buyers who could complete extensive work on a small house. That greatly narrows the available pool of purchasers. The new home that was built now pays much higher taxes to the village and school system. The homeowners who now live there would be paying taxes and making a home some place else.

People might say the ordinance sounds reasonable and this process will be overseen by the Preservation Commission. But a case can be made for any property?"whether it is a home, a store or a dog house?"to be a contributing structure. What will stop the commission from saying a vacant lot "contributes" to open space and so should never be built? If this ordinance passes, will it then be stretched to cover renovations and expansions too?

The Preservation Commission is an unelected group of individuals beholden only to the people that appointed them and their belief in the mission of historical preservation. This in theory works well, but in my opinion facilitates the ability to be completely arbitrary and capricious with someone else's property.

What if the person wanting to build a new home was disliked by some of the commission members? Could they be singled out for punishment by having their property listed as a contributing structure?

This is not just about evil developers ruining Riverside. There are families who want to stay in Riverside by building a new home. A very real example was detailed in the Landmark earlier this month.

The family that owns the house at 37 Longcommon would like to replace their current home with a new structure that is more livable. From the outside it looks like a beautiful building with a great story to go along with its construction.

However, that house does not work well for the family that owns it. They say it is poorly laid out and they need a better functioning home. Should the "community" be able to dictate to them that they have to stay in the existing structure "as is" or sell it at a reduced price to someone who is willing to live in it "as is"?

I don't intend on tearing down my house. But I want the right to decide what to do with my house in the future or sell those rights unencumbered. I never moved into Riverside to hand over my property to a group of "experts" to decide what's best for me and my family.

If an individual feels strongly that they do not want their home torn down or it has historic value, they can easily place a deed restriction on it. The new purchaser chooses to abide by those restrictions or doesn't buy the house. The important thing is that the individual property owner chooses what is best for them.

This ordinance will take money from all property owners in Riverside by reducing the value of their property and reducing the tax base of our village and schools. Most importantly, this ordinance has the very real likelihood of creating expensive litigation for Riverside by the first property owner who is subjected to it. Who will pay for that? All of us who are taxpayers in Riverside.

In reference to your last editorial ("Delaying action," The Landmark View, Sept. 21), the U.S. Constitution never mentions "community rights," but it is very specific in enumerating property rights. The Fifth Amendment's Takings Clause reads: "nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation." The last time I checked, the "community" wasn't paying my mortgage. They shouldn't have the right to decide the future of my property.

Michael J. Flight lives in Riverside.

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