Are tear-downs tearing apart the fabric of the proposed expanded historic district in Oak Park? Not really.

Why then would the Historic Preservation Commission want to expand the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District into 100 additional blocks where there are no Wright homes?

My block would be in the new district. The best homes look like they came from a Sears catalog, circa 1920. Others are modest Depression-era homes. One handsome Prairie-style house was built in the ’80s as a knock-off.

What is the argument in favor of the expanded district? The first is that it will protect the “unique character” of the Frank Lloyd Wright District. But the lack of historic architecture is why these blocks were left out in the first place.

Second, the commission argues that national studies show that historic designation increases property values. If so, it should be simple to prove that housing values in Oak Park’s historic district have outstripped housing values in the proposed district. That’s not something they’re saying and I doubt they could.

Third, I am a student of government gobbledygook, and the Historic Preservation Commission (HPC) presents a doozy. To assuage the fears of homeowners about government overregulation (can you say Building Code Department?), the commission posed the following question in a recent mailer: “So [in the expanded historic district] the Commission gets to tell me what I can and can’t do with my building?” then answers this question in the most definitive fashion. It says, “No.”

But after it says “No,” it explains that the answer is in fact “Yes.”

The village will “assist property owners and help them achieve what they want with their buildings, while also fulfilling the community’s longstanding commitment to historic preservation in ways that benefit ALL property owners.” Note to self: watch out when a government entity starts to communicate in capital letters.

Or acronyms. The “HPC,” they say, will help owners meet their goals “in a preservation context.” It then says that the “COA,” whatever that is, will “ensure that alterations are sensitive.” This is code for “we get to tell you exactly what to do with all your exterior building alterations.” And if you fail to agree with what the HPC and COA say, then “you always have the option of appealing the decision to the Village Board.”

So the commission gets to tell you what to do and if you don’t like it, you can go fish by appealing to the village trustees. Lots of luck.

Too often in Oak Park we ignore real problems and attempt to solve problems that don’t exist. The historic district expansion — which I assure you will happen whether anyone wants it or not — is a case in point.

But here is the real reason I am against the historic district expansion. I once had to paint my quasi-historic-but-peeling wooden front porch steps every year. Then I found an exterior flooring product that looks like painted wood, never needs paint and is made of recycled plastic bottles. This is a historic NO-NO because in 1910 Coke bottles were for drinking not planking.

The HPC and COA would have left me SOL.

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