After 2 years of study and work by an ad hoc citizen’s committee, work is proceeding on drafting a proposed River Forest Historic Preservation ordinance. A preliminary draft of that ordinance is being studied and discussed by village officials and members of an ad hoc preservation committee.
The discussion was slowed considerably last week by the absence of key members of that working group, including Village President Frank Paris, Assistant Village Administrator Steve Gutierrez and Village Attorney Jon Gilbert, all of whom were out of town.
Laurel McMahon of the Ad Hoc Committee on Historic Preservation described the process as “slow but positive.”
“We talked about definitions and wordings,” she said Friday. “A couple more meetings and we’ll have a good idea.”
Trustee Al Swanson, who was present at last Thursday’s ordinance discussion, tended to agree with that assessment, though he was a bit more reserved and noncommittal.
“It depends on where the conversation goes,” he said. “I would love to say [it could go to the village board] by April’s second meeting.” Swanson declined to talk specifics, agreeing with McMahon that the process was at a sensitive point where the discussion focused on the nuances of language.
The committee meets again this Thursday night at 6:15, with several more meetings likely to follow. Any final resolution, Swanson said, could possibly take until September.
While a bit disappointed at the current tempo, McMahon said she was greatly encouraged by discussions over actual language after nearly 2 years of general discussion regarding historic preservation.
“I see the light at the end of the tunnel,” she said. “This is no longer a concept. This is a draft of the actual ordinance.”
Part of the reason for the slow pace relates to fears over the possible ramifications of any historic preservation ordinance. Concern has been expressed in the past by both Paris and some trustees regarding possible negative effects of any ordinance on property rights and development in the village.
Reached by phone Tuesday, Paris said he hoped the group could forward an ordinance to the village board that reflected both “caution and preservation.”
Preservation is important he said, but so too is a deference toward the rights of property owners.
McMahon said she appreciates those concerns, but said people need not worry. Her concern, she said, is solely that an awareness of the village’s history and significant architecture be a part of any development planning process.
“This is not going to be an extremely restrictive ordinance,” she said. “The purpose is not to restrict people, but to make sure that changes are done in a sensitive manner.”
Part of that approach, McMahon said, is educational.
“We need an educational framework to make people more aware of the architectural and historic heritage of our village,” she said.