LAKE BLUFF — Owners of a historic Lake Bluff home with unobstructed views of Lake Michigan have few obstacles left preventing them from demolishing it, but the village’s Historic Preservation Commission is doing what it can.
The commission asked the Village Board of Trustees March 8 at Village Hall to extend the review period, potentially delaying the issuance of a demolition permit for the home at 512 Sunrise Avenue for 30 days.
Glen Cole, the assistant to the village administrator, said after the meeting the issue has been placed on the board’s agenda when it meets at 7 p.m. March 13.
Property owners Brian Schmucker and Julie Schmucker, who also own the home on the lot immediately adjacent to the south, want to demolish the house at 512 Sunrise and turn it into a landscaped yard, according to Dan Horvat.
Horvat said he is the Schmuckers’ designer for the project. He is also the one applying for the demolition permit, according to Janet Nelson, the commission chairperson.
Nelson and the other three commissioners present all expressed disappointment they could do nothing more than recommend a 30-day delay. She said the current village ordinance allows owners of a landmarked home to tear it down if they wish.
“A lot of people would like to live in that house, myself included,” said Commissioner Janie Jerch. “They are extremely selfish. They want a yard for their kids to play in and they’re going to outgrow it in a few years. They have a park and beach across the street.”
The commission can invoke a review period and try to come to an accommodation with the property owner, according to Nelson. If the Schmuckers still want to proceed, a permit must be issued. Horvat indicated that is their wish.
Gary Doyle, a Lake Bluff resident who lived in the house from 1995 to 2007, has helped lead the effort to preserve it. He said in a DailyNorthShore.com interview earlier in the week he could not attend the commission meeting for business reasons. Lois Nicol, another Lake Bluff resident, read Doyle’s statement at the meeting.
“It’s the kind of home that used to distinguish Lake Bluff and is rapidly disappearing here: a modest cottage in the traditional arts and crafts style,” said Doyle in the letter. “Lake Bluff has the weakest historic preservation regulation on the North Shore. We are losing (our village) character house by house.”
Commissioner Paul Bergmann also said the loss of 512 Sunrise and homes like it in the village are changing the look of the community. He wants to see it retained.
“This house is like Lake Bluff, small, cute and quaint,” said Bergmann. “We keep losing homes like this and soon there won’t be any left.”
Kate Briand, a Lake Bluff resident who spoke at the meeting, also said the potential demolition of the home is a step in the wrong direction.
“Our historic homes are being whittled away,” said Briand. “Eventually our historic architecture is going to be gone.”
Horvat said the Schmuckers are not going about the demolition without a lot of thought. He said they applied a year ago and withdrew the application before renewing it late last year. They tried to find another solution but could not.
“They hired three different architects and none of them came up with anything,” Horvat said in a DNS interview before the meeting. “They looked all up and down the North Shore for another place and could not find one that worked.”
Though Nelson said the Schmuckers are within their rights sending Horvat to represent them, she and other commissioners said they would like to see the property owners make their argument in person.
“I would like to see them come and defend themselves,” said Jerch. “They should come and look us in the eye and tell us why they want to tear it down.”
Nelson asked Horvat to ask the Schmuckers to attend the April meeting if the board grants the extension. Horvat said he would ask. She also said requiring the property owner to appear in person is something she would like to see added to the village code.