Trustees seek Historic Overlay District

Proposal to offer incentives for significant properties now heads to plan commission

After almost a year of discussion, Hinsdale trustees are referring a proposal to create a Historic Overlay District to the village’s plan commission.

Homes identified as historically significant in the district would be eligible for voluntary preservation incentives ranging from fee waivers to alternative bulk zoning regulations.

“I think it’s important to note the properties within the Historic Overlay District will not automatically be included,” Trustee Luke Stifflear said. “Properties will be identified and owners will be allowed to seek incentives. There is not going to be any type of encumbrance that will go on properties or restrict property owners’ rights.”

The draft map shows the district including the R-1, R-2, R-3, R-4, B-1, B-2, O-1, O-2, IB, HS and OS districts.

After the district and its boundaries are officially approved by trustees, the historic preservation commission will have six months to create an initial list of properties to consider placing on the list of historically significant structures. The group will hold a public hearing to review criteria and eligibility for each property.

“After that list is created, we can do that process several times over,” village planner Bethany Salmon said, noting that it would be a burden to bring the full list of properties to a single public hearing.

Property owners could apply to be added or removed from the list at any time.

Properties on the list would be eligible for the following preservation incentives:

• fee waivers for building permits and applications for landmark, historic district or certificate of appropriateness designations

• expedited process for obtaining building permits, historic district designations and other zoning approvals

“These types of applications will jump to the front of the line,” Stifflear said.

• property tax rebates of the village portion of property taxes (about 7 percent of total tax bill) for five years with a minimum investment of $50,000 on eligible exterior improvements

• alternative bulk zoning regulations that provide additional flexibility to homeowners looking to modernize a historic home

“These zoning regulations that are being proposed, the alternate ones, are based off of our existing code and our nonconforming situation but it is giving that extra couple of feet that might make a big difference,” Salmon said.

• historic preservation matching grants for 50 percent of eligible projects up to $10,000 per project

The village board has allotted $30,000 in its budget for the first year of the program, Stifflear noted.

To enact the provisions, the village board is seeking a map amendment and text amendment to various sections of the zoning code and a text amendment to Title 14 of the village code, which covers historic preservation.

If approved, two new chapters be added to Title 14, village attorney Michael Marrs said.

“At the end of the day, the idea is to take these historically significant properties in the village, identify them, put them on a list, which will then make them eligible for certain preservation incentives and hopefully incentivize the rehabilitation to extend their lives for generations going forward,” he said.

Homeowners would be required to seek approval at various points of the process. They also would have to sign a preservation incentive agreement and agree to maintain the improvements for at least five years, Salmon said.

Trustees voted 4-0 (Lauren Haarlow and Scott Banke were absent) to refer the matter to the plan commission.

The village expects to have the item ready for the commission’s review in a couple of months, Salmon said, and then it would take at least two months to move through the public hearing process before returning to the village board for final approval.

The village board and historic preservation commission held eight joint meetings between May 2021 and January to discuss the amendments and incentives.

“I really want to thank the historic preservation commission for their work on this,” Village President Tom Cauley said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean