Preservation friends, foes have input to offer
Last updated 7/8/2020 at 4:01pm | View PDF
The Zoom public hearing about a potential moratorium on the demolition of historic homes reminded us a little of the film classic “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off,” as Hinsdale Plan Commission Chairman Steve Cashman often had to repeatedly call out names of residents when it was their turn to give public comment.
We certainly hope Zoom public hearings will soon be a thing of the past, but the format did give an unusually large number of people a voice in this debate.
And we heard the same message over and over: Historic houses certainly add to the charm of the village, but homeowners shouldn’t be forced to bear the considerable cost of owning an older home.
As one caller — the daughter of a couple who owns an aging home Fifth Street — put it, a moratorium on teardowns would cause her parents financial pain and suffering “in order to make a drive through town easy on the eyes.”
Plan commissioners agreed the village should not interfere with individual property rights and voted 4-2 against recommending the moratorium to trustees. We hope village trustees listen to their advice when they take up the matter Tuesday.
We also hope trustees will listen to insight from the plan commission when they next discuss the draft of a revised historic preservation ordinance Village President Tom Cauley presented informally June 16. Commissioners like many of the suggested incentives but have concerns about a clause that would allow trustees to delay the demolition of a home by up to six months in an attempt to save it.
While they’re at it, the village board could benefit from listening to many other opinions on historic preservation. This subject clearly is important to residents all over town. And if measures like a property tax rebate for those who renovate historic homes are to be enacted, the entire village should be part of the conversation.
One resident has suggested the idea of creating a task force of people on both sides of the issue to work on revisions to the historic preservation ordinance. She has many ideas about how to help save historic homes — and we are certain she is not alone.
We understand Cauley’s desire to keep the momentum going on this topic. But rushing to write new laws, especially when they are designed to fix a problem that has existed for decades, seems ill-advised.
There is no saving the three homes in the Robbins Park Historic District that prompted this discussion. Other historic homes in the village likely are destined for demolition as well, which is too bad.
But it’s more important to get historic preservation right than it is to get it done fast. So we encourage Cauley and the board to slow down, create a task force and invest the time to find the best preservation plan for the village.