After several meetings and practice runs since first bringing their historic preservation proposal before the village council in early June, members of Forest Park’s Historic Preservation Committee are ready to once again present the ordinance to the commissioners.
This time, they hope, a power point presentation on the benefits of the ordinance will relieve any doubts the council might have about the ordinance.
The presentation, which the committee hopes to bring before council at a November meeting, is divided into five sections: The importance of having a historic preservation ordinance, highlights of the proposed ordinance, putting the ordinance to work, consequences of not having an ordinance, and frequently asked questions.
In each of these five sections, the goal is to present the ordinance as a statute that would allow a village filled with historic homes to maintain its historic character without placing any burden on homeowners.
“The more you know about the past, the more connected you feel,” said committee member Kim Zandstra, who explained that, along with preserving Forest Park’s history, the ordinance could also boost tourism and help stabilize or even increase property values.
According to committee members, the village has become filled with homes that have been modified to the point that their historic character is unrecognizable. “The old houses are still there, they’re just hidden underneath,” said Zandstra. “If we don’t start doing something it’s going to stay that way.”
Zandstra said that she is researching several towns that saw documented increases in tourist revenue after passing similar ordinances. Committee chair Paul Barbahen pointed out that though the numbers might not be documented, Oak Park has certainly benefited from its ordinance, as evidenced by the tours of historic neighborhoods it is able to offer.
“I don’t know what the drawbacks would be,” said Barbahen, who had planned to step down upon being appointed chair of the village’s new ethics committee but said his fellow committee members have asked him to stay on until the ordinance goes before council.
“It’s certainly not a very onerous ordinance,” he said, explaining that even in areas deemed historic districts, the only obligation placed on homeowners would be for all exterior renovations to remain in the character of the home’s original architecture.
In June, some village council members expressed concern that the ordinance would limit the options available to residents who wished to renovate their homes. Committee members, however, said that Forest Park’s ordinance would be much less burdensome than towns like Galena, where “you can’t even change a mailbox without the village’s permission.”
New homes constructed in a historic district would also need to fit the character of the neighborhood, which committee members hope will cut down on “hodge podge” blocks where historic homes and new condo buildings stand side by side.
“If you’re spending the money to build a house, don’t tell me you can’t put up a house that fits the character of the neighborhood,” said Barbahen.
If passed, the ordinance would call for the formation of a commission which would conduct surveys to determine areas that would be designated as historic districts, provide information to homeowners living in these districts, and develop guidelines for the alteration, demolition, construction, or removal of sites within historic districts.
Once the ordinance is passed, Forest Park could apply for Certified Local Government (CLG) status, which would allow homeowners to apply for federal and local grants through the commission to assist them in restoring historic homes to their former glory.
Property owners would be responsible for researching the historic nature of their property, applying for landmark status with the commission and applying for federal and local restoration incentives.
Homeowners would have to give their consent before their homes could be declared part of a historic district. They would be able to opt out of historic status if necessary, according to committee members.