Thanks for saying no to developers

Opinion

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The local real estate agent's full page ad [Aug. 31, p. 11] asking for people to join him in a possible lawsuit against our Historic Preservation Commission was quite interesting for what the ad doesn't say. Of the issues brought up in the ad, does this particular agent have a financial interest in the outcome of the issue of the Historic Preservation Commission acting to prevent the tear-down of two Victorian homes in the historic district?

No one will agree with all of the Historic Preservation Commission's decisions. Heck, even I wasn't in agreement on their recent porch controversy. But these are well-intentioned people whose job it is to review some very drastic proposals, some by people new to our community, who want to substantially alter the character of the historic districts that we have all paid to create.

The hardest job for any public servant is to tell someone "No!" And these commissioners are perhaps the only ones in our town who are willing to do so. Porch decision aside, they have made the right call on the following:

? New family buys one of the three Flori Blonsteel homes on the corner of Chicago and Elmwood. For those people who admire and understand architecture these are among the most important structures in town.

Each year, 77,000 people come from all over the world to admire them and our historic districts. Shortly after purchase, the family asks permission to do a large 2-story build-out on the rear of the home, citing space needs. The commission tells them no.

? An investor owns two non-conforming Victorian homes in the historic district. These homes were originally single family and were turned multifamily at some point.

Lack of investment has run down these contributing structures, but they sit in an area of $650-$850,000 Victorian homes and are eminently rehabable and decidedly valuable. The investor, along with the aforementioned real estate agent and architect, John Schiess, decide they want to tear them down and put in condos?#34;millions of dollars of condos?#34;in the historic district. The commission tells them no.

Everyone has property rights. But when the sign on the door says historic district, these rights come with responsibilities and everyone and their dog knows it. The creation of the historic districts has been the single best decision ever made by our community and the dramatic increase in property values within these districts underlines it.

The issue of tear-downs in the historic districts is being framed by those who have only their financial interests at heart vs. those who are altruistically supporting preserving our community.

I say community preservation trumps developer greed every time. I'd like to thank the Historic Preservation Commission for helping preserve our community, and I will be only too happy to contribute to the defense fund for the commission should the suit go forward.

Paul Hamer
Oak Park

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