The Forest Park Preservation Commission met for the first time last week to discuss several issues.
The first order of business was appointing Rich Vitton as chairperson of the commission. Vitton, who is also the president of the Forest Park historical society, will serve on the commission with Matt Mallers, Tom Pacyga, Kim Zandstra and Ramya S. Bavikatte. As for the mission of the newly formed commission, Vitton says it is simple.
“We want to educate people about the history and structures of the village,” he said. “There are about 5,000 single family homes in Forest Park and many of these homes are historic. We don’t have many old structures left and we want to encourage residents to hold on to the history of the village by keeping and restoring their historic homes.”
The commission is currently working with the Illinois Preservation Office in Springfield to add ‘Title 12’ to the village ordinance, which will make the commission an official part of village government by attaining Certified Local Government (CLG) status. This would allow the commission to apply for state funds earmarked for promotional materials for historical tours.
Vitton estimates it will take at least a year for the ordinance to meet all the standards set by the state, but he and the commission plan on working on several other issues while this process takes place.
One of those issues is to establish a budget with the help of Forest Park village administrator, Michael Sturino.
“I am working on the entire village budget right now, but it will not be passed until June,” Sturino said. “This gives us time to work with the commission and figure out their budget, so I am sure we will get something figured out by then and we can appropriate some money.”
While the commission still needs time to discuss how much money it needs and how it will spend it, an initial idea is to devote some funds towards the purchase of plaques to be given to homeowners that reside in historic homes.
In other business, the commission also plans on contacting residents who dwell in the 100 block of Elgin Avenue. Currently, five historic homes could be torn down to make way for the Elgin Commons development, assuming that developer Michael Madock gets permission to proceed from the village council.
According to current plans, the townhouses would include 18 units on the west side of Elgin and would take up 37,870 square feet. Though the preservation commission cannot stop the development, Vitton said he plans on contacting the residents, one of whom attended Thursday’s meeting, to try and open a dialog between the residents and the commission.
“The houses on Elgin are a perfect example of why this commission was formed,” he said. “We want to try and preserve these structures and educate people that their homes really are a part of the history of Forest Park. We have already compiled a lengthy list of tips for residents on how the restore their houses ” all they have to do is contact us.”
Vitton also served on the previously existing Historic Preservation Committee, which was formed in 2005 to draft a historic preservation ordinance for the village. Once the ordinance was approved by the village council, that committee disbanded and gave way to the new commission.
The commission meets the second Thursday of every month in the lower level of Forest Park Village Hall located at 517 Des Plaines Avenue. The next meeting is scheduled for April 13.