Dominican University’s Priory Campus. | Alex Rogals

Owners of historic buildings located in the Public Recreational and Institutional (PRI) zones of River Forest who are planning demolition of the structures are now required to wait an additional six months before doing so following action by the village board on Dec. 13.

Trustees voted unanimously to concur with the recommendation of the Historic Preservation Commission to approve an ordinance change to extend the maximum potential demolition delay for the PRI zoned significant properties from six months to 12 months.

The ordinance change will not impact any residential buildings, only the 29 buildings that are in the PRI zones, which are scattered throughout the village and are typically park, school and church properties and include structures owned by government entities such as the village and Cook County.

Some of the buildings zoned PRI in River Forest include houses of worship such as Grace Lutheran Church, Christ Episcopal Church, Temple Har Zion, St. Luke Church, River Forest Methodist Church, St. Vincent Ferrer Church and First Presbyterian Church.

Educational facilities include Willard Elementary School, Trinity High School, St. Luke School, the River Forest District 90 Administration Building, Roosevelt Middle School, certain buildings on the campuses of Concordia and Dominican universities and the Dominican University Priory Campus.

David Franek, chairman of the River Forest Preservation Commission, explained that the change is recommended “due to the size and complexity” of the 29 buildings. He also said no member of the public attended a public hearing in November and no comments were received by the commission despite owners of all buildings being informed by mail.

The 12-month delay for any such significant property that is zoned PRI would be a maximum, the Franek explained. The commission could also issue a certificate of appropriateness or a delay less than the maximum.

The 12-month maximum demolition delay would be calculated from the date that a completed application for a certificate of appropriateness is received by the village, as has been the case with the six-month delay. As is the case currently, any demolition delay decision would still be appealable to the village board.

In a memo to the village board, Jonathan Pape, assistant to the village manager, said the Preservation Commission recommended the change to better align the village’s expectations that proposed development and/or redevelopment of historically significant properties zoned PRI would more likely include multiple parties as well as require more time for the community, buyers and sellers to assess potential alternatives to demolition.

“Such proposals would likely require additional time to review because of a greater variety and complexity of potential uses than significant properties that are zoned as residential or commercial,” Franek said in the memo. “As a result, up to an additional six months of demolition delay (for a total of 12 months) could be needed to evaluate such options in appropriate cases.”

Commissioners discussed the possibility of requiring that demolished properties be salvaged, but determined that this issue would also not be moved forward at this time.

Trustee Bob O’Connell questioned how negotiations with Cook County would be conducted but Village Attorney Greg Smith indicated such an issue could be addressed when it arose. County-owned buildings in River Forest with PRI zoning designations include the Cook County Forest Preserve Offices and Trailside Museum.

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