Property Rights in the Balance in Geneva
Byline: Susan Sarkauskas firstname.lastname@example.org
Should [URL]Geneva;http://www.geneva.il.us[/URL] maintain the power to designate historic landmarks without the consent of the property owners? And if not, will that lessen its ability to preserve the city's historic character, often cited in city surveys as important to its identity?
"That is the age-old question: How do you balance property rights vs. community good?" Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg said Monday night, after a nearly three-hour debate on the subject.
The city council is considering a request made by some residents this spring. They want to eliminate the ability of the city to designate a property as a historic landmark or to create a new historic district
without the consent of the property owners affected.
If the law were to change, it could go three ways, according to a staff presentation. The council could keep "no owner consent" but require a supermajority vote of the city council on a designation, drop "no owner consent" but require only a simple majority vote on any designation, or drop "no owner consent" and require a supermajority vote in favor of the designation.
The people requesting the change live in an area the city was considering for designation as a historic district, on the near south side. Residents protested vehemently in May and June, and the council voted to drop the matter.
Under current law, anyone can nominate any property for landmark status. They would then have to complete an application and provide research to support their position. The matter would next be reviewed by the Historic Preservation Commission, and a recommendation would be made to the council.
"The current ordinance leaves one with the feeling that the city can do something TO us. Wouldn't it be better to feel that the city can do something FOR us?" said Marty Smircich, one of the protesters.
But Preservation Partners Director Liz Safanda said the council should keep "no owner consent" as a tool. …