The Oak Park Board of Trustees rejected a request by a local real estate broker to tear down two buildings in the Ridgeland-Oak Park Historic District, denying the application for a certificate of economic hardship.

In a 6-1 vote — Oak Park Mayor Anan Abu-Taleb was the dissenter — the board agreed with the Oak Park Historic Preservation Commission, which rejected the proposal unanimously, to reject the request that would have demolished residences at 1014 and 1018 Pleasant Street to make room for an 8-unit condo building. 

Building owner Al Rossell argued that although the buildings are habitable, the value of the land as a redevelopment site — he noted in his application a letter of intent with a developer to purchase the land for $1.35 million under the condition that the teardowns are approved — is greater than the $1.1 million appraisal value of the two structures should he try to sell them.

Rossell told trustees at the board meeting that the loss of $250,000 is substantial and entitles him to a favorable opinion. He purchased the two properties in the early 1970s for about $70,000, adding in a letter to the Historic Preservation Commission that “failure to provide permission to demolish the buildings will result in significant economic loss.”

The commission said the differential in the sale price with or without buildings does not constitute an economic hardship because “this loss was a loss in profit, not a reduction in the fair market value of the properties.”

Historic Preservation Commission member Noel Weidner said the commission was particularly concerned about the precedent that approval of such teardowns would establish in the historic district.

“The conversations we had with the applicant during the hearing revolved around how much profit or loss of profit was at stake with the sale of the property, and I don’t think we believe that to be the purpose of the certificate of economic hardship,” Weidner said.

Rossell argued that the board was not given full information about the hearing that rejected his request, telling the board that the meeting minutes provided did not accurately reflect his testimony. 

“I was expecting fair hearings from the commission, but I think they are designed as such that nothing gets torn down in this town,” he said.

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