Despite protests, new house to be built on Wesley side lot

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Martha and John Lussenhop's old house at 947 Wesley Ave. is up for sale?#34;again?#34;and to the dismay of many of their neighbors, the sale will not include the garden lot on the side of the house.

Chicago-based Cherryfield Construction has purchased that lot and plans to build a single-family home there, developer Barney O'Reilly said.

Last Wednesday, more than 50 of the Lussenhops' former neighbors and friends met at a neighbor's house at 937 Wesley Ave. to discuss how they could prevent a new home from being built. O'Reilly, and Tom Bassett-Dilly of Florian Architects who was hired to design a new house for the lot, also attended the meeting.

Neighbors questioned whether a new house in the area would fit the character of the neighborhood, and discussed how they might prevent a house from being added to their block. They were upset when the family that initially purchased the entire property did not move in and subsequently sold the lot separately. The lot had been home to a garden that benefited the entire block, neighbors said.

O'Reilly, who had heard of the neighbor's concerns just that day, said it was too late to reverse the pending sale of the lot. A few days later he said the deal was finalized. He said that more details about plans for the newly built house, which he hopes will sell for around $750,000, will be available next month.

The Lussenhops sold their house and attached lot to Daniel and Kimberly Spillane in June. Daniel Spillane said that neither he, his wife, nor their agents, gave any indication that they would either live in or resell the home. At the closing on June 17, neither he nor his wife were not present, but were represented by Realtor Gretchen Spillane and attorney Joe Spillane.

Daniel Spillane said last week that the house is back on the market.

Bassett-Dilly said that the new house to be built on the lot would meet all zoning codes for the area, and would be designed to fit in with the rest of the houses on the block.

"The new house will be a two-story, single-family residence with a detached garage; the style will blend as seamlessly as possible with the houses of the neighborhood," he wrote in an e-mail. "We're planning a hip-roof house, clad in cedar, painted in historically accurate colors; the windows are to be clad wood."

David Powers, village spokesperson, said that village hall was recently contacted to review the plat of survey of the house's side lot, which is currently listed under the same Property Identification Number as the house.

Township Assessor Ali ElSaffar said it usually takes some time to separate a plot of land into two PINs, but a separate PIN is not necessary at the time of the sale.

Since the meeting, the neighbors said they haven't made significant progress toward preventing a new house from being built over the garden.

"We haven't gotten much further," said Kate Linne, one of the meeting's organizers. "It was just nice of the architect and developer to be at the meeting." She said they have tried to contact various organizations for help.

Ross Thomas, another organizer, said that he plans to write a letter on behalf of Martha Lussenhop, asking for the keepsakes she left in the house for the new owners to be returned to her.

Krista Lussenhop, Martha and John's daughter, happened to be in town during the week of the meeting and was able to attend. She said that her parents were concerned that the lot might be sold separately someday, and had tried to prevent it.

"The way the buyers were presented to them made them not seem like a threat," she said. "We didn't see it coming."

Joe Spillane said the couple could have sought landmark status, but did not, and that they could have restricted future uses of the property in the sale agreement.

Village Urban Planner Doug Kaarre said that land can be protected from development if the owners arrange for a conservation easement with a non-profit organization which would agree to ensure that nothing would be built on the land. All future owners of the land would be subject to the conditions of the easement

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