New steps added to preservation process

Changes designed to encourage renovation of historic homes, but nothing new is binding

Hinsdale will have a new Ad Hoc Historic District Design Review team in the next two weeks.

Trustees voted unanimously Tuesday to amend sections of the Hinsdale Village Code to create the new entity and make other changes to the historic preservation process.

“The process is designed to encourage owners of historic homes to preserve their homes,” Village President Tom Cauley told The Hinsdalean Wednesday. “But if a historic home is to be demolished, we want to encourage homeowners to build a new home that is consistent with the historic nature of the Robbins Historic District.

“But at the end of the process — which will be completed in a reasonable length of time — homeowners can do what they want with their properties, no matter what the HPC (historic preservation commission) and board may decide,” he added. “This process is designed to encourage, not to strong-arm homeowners or to dictate what they can do with their properties.”

Up to this point, property owners who wanted to demolish a home in the Robbins Park Historic District or at other landmarked sites had to appear before the historic preservation commission to receive a certificate of appropriateness for new construction before demolition could occur. In the past, if the commission denied the certificate, homeowners were free to proceed how they wished.

Under the new ordinance, property owners must file a preliminary application and meet with the new design review team before applying for a certificate of appropriateness with the preservation commission. This step is required for property owners seeking the demolition, relocation or removal of an existing residence or the construction of a new residence within the Robbins Park Historic District and for all changes to landmarked properties regardless of location, according to a memo from village attorney Michael Marrs.

The review team will provide design feedback, education, guidance and advice to property owners, with written recommendations required within 15 days of the meeting. It also may require the applicant to prepare a Historic and Architectural Impact Study as part of the subsequent application for a certificate of appropriateness.

That study has a capped cost of $250 and need not provide more than the information available from the Hinsdale Historical Society “or other readily available sources,” according to the memo.

The review team, which Cauley must appoint by April 17, is likely to include Trustee Alexis Braden, a former member of the historic preservation commission. Another member will come from the preservation commission, and Cauley said he will let the HPC chair choose that individual. The ordinance indicates the team could have three or more members.

“I have no one in mind for the third member. Indeed, we may not have a third member,” Cauley said.

The changes approved Tuesday night include other provisions as well.

Homeowners who are denied a certificate of appropriateness by the preservation commission will be required to attend a Hinsdale Village Board meeting for additional input and a vote. That meeting must take place within 60 days of the preservation commission’s vote.

Demolition fees will increase from $7,928 to $11,100 for homes within the Robbins Park Historic District to help defray the cost of staff and consultant time.

Trustees discussed the ordinance during a first read at their March 13 meeting. Since that time, the process was shortened by two months.

“We don’t want the process to be so long that it adversely affects homeowners’ rights to make decisions regarding their properties,” Cauley said.

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean