LAKE BLUFF — Little is left to prevent the demolition of a landmarked home on Sunrise Avenue, but Village President Kathy O’Hara wants to see such action harder in the future.
The Village Board of Trustees unanimously approved a resolution on March 13 at Village Hall ratifying a recommendation from the Historic Preservation Commission to delay the owners of 512 Sunrise Avenue from tearing it down before the end of April.
Before the board considered the resolution, O’Hara charged the commission to find ways to strengthen the village’s historic preservation ordinance. She wants a better balance between the rights of property owners and the desire of Lake Bluff to preserve its historic character. She wants it done in the next six months.
“Like many other communities we have not yet seemed to find a balance between these two viewpoints,” said O’Hara. “Lately, the rhetoric has seemed to become somewhat inappropriate on both sides, which does not help rational discussion.”
Janet Nelson, the chair of the commission, echoed O’Hara’s desire for an ordinance review when she spoke to the board in favor of the extension. She said the tension between individual property rights and a communal wish for preservation is not new.
“This is not the first time that demolition in Lake Bluff has caused bad feelings,” said Nelson. “The HPC wants to take this opportunity to look closely at the current ordinance, compare it to other areas and communities, and determine whether it could become a better preservation tool for Lake Bluff.”
Regardless of the outcome of the commission’s study and further board action, the house could start to come down soon after May 1. Unless owners Brian Schmucker and Julie Schmucker change their mind, they are free to obtain a demolition permit then, according to Nelson.
Nelson said that once the Schmuckers, who own the home immediately south of 512 Sunrise, demolish the property, they plan to landscape it as a side yard to serve as a play area for their children, a garden and outdoor recreation. She hopes they alter their position during the 30-day delay.
“We are asking you to consider extending the demolition for another 30 days in the very slim hope the property owner will change his mind regarding this demolition,” said Nelson.
Though the board appeared ready to approve the extension, Trustee Barbara Ankenman wanted to know if delay would be a hardship on the Schmuckers.
Though it did not appear there would be a hardship, a change of heart by the Schmuckers appears unlikely, according to Dan Horvat. Horvat was the Schmuckers’ representative at the meeting and the designer of the proposed yard.
“He has not budged, not changed his mind. He has not vacillated one bit,” said Horvat. “I asked Brian (Schmucker) this morning and there is no hardship if you extend it. He wants to get it done soon before school is out and children are going to the beach.”
DailyNorthShore.com tried to contact Brian Schmucker. He did not return the call.
One concern expressed by Trustee Stephen Christensen was the possibility the Schmuckers or a future owner would demolish the home the Schmuckers now occupy to build a larger house on the combined lot. Nelson said they could bind the Schmuckers but not future owners.
Once the commission completes its study, O’Hara said the board will take a close look at the proposal strengthening the historic preservation ordinance. She said the review will be thorough.
“The board will hold discussions and seek community dialogue encouraging all resident viewpoints on this issue and on any proposed changes to the existing ordinance,” said O’Hara.