Monday, February 27, 2012

We're historic but who cares?

I am a little late with the news but it is now official, we are “historic”. The Tiny Bungalow and many of its neighbors were added to the Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District. If you follow this blog, you know that I am hardly a supporter of this move.

My perspective on one hand questions the thematic grouping of this home with Wright’s legacy and critiques the inability of the village to minimize the regulation it has on private properties. If their zoning ordinance doesn’t work to curb inappropriate development, then re-write that, don’t engulf the entire community under the auspices of being historic in order to curb development. I think that the decision to do this belittles the label “Historic District”. If everything is historic and can meet the woefully low expectations of our local historic areas, then what is the point? What is so special about it?

It will be interesting to see if there is a Renaissance on our street now with people clamoring to fix up their homes and to spend loads of dough to comply with the village requirements for historic properties. I am skeptical, to say the least. We are some of the smallest homes in the village and putting the kind of money into our homes that would trigger any financial benefit of being in the district is simply cost-prohibitive.

This week will be an interesting one. The village trustees will be discussing how they will use public funds to address some of the concerns we have had with the failure of the village sewage system over the past few years. Here, we have experienced flooding because the system is not designed to handle larger rainstorms. The village has several choices: they can do nothing, they can upgrade the systems, or they can fund private measures to improve homes to mitigate against sewer backup. They will not be upgrading the system, since it is so expensive. Last week, the local paper reported that they might provide loans in lieu of actual grant funds for projects.  I guess time will tell.

This is a lame solution as it only allows people with means to purchase the upgrades. In my opinion, if a big solution like making large systemic changes isn't possible, then a grant program covering a portion of the private improvement is in order. The sewer system that is funded by the taxes that we pay is ruining our homes. We deserve something back to help cover the cost of “fixing” the problem at our end.  Otherwise, I think that those that have the means may do something and those that don't will continue to suffer.

The irony is that last week, the village showed that they are VERY concerned about the outward appearance of our homes. Putting on a good face for the rest of the community seems very important to our trustees. This week we will find out if they are equally concerned about the inside of our homes.  Are they content with allowing a good number of the residents of this village to wallow in shit once the next rain storm hits as long as it looks pretty from the street?
If only I could think of a way to make the shit flow as a waterfall and then use it as an architectural feature for the Tiny Bungalow.  Then it might feel at home in a Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District.


Chazwick said...

"Of the 1,150 submissions for building permits in Oak Park's Wright District and other historic districts in 2011, only 23 were brought to the preservation commission, Kaarre said. Of the 23, two were denied." - From the Tribune article

I think you are overreacting; if anything, the inclusion of your smaller homes in the HD will protect them from demolition for replacement by a McCraftsman, when development pressure in the area increases (and someday it will).

Chris said...

I hope you are right that developers (or anyone, for that matter) will find our little corner of the OP desirable enough to purchase our home for a decent price. I also think you are sort of missing my point. I am a very preservation-minded individual. I am not so keen on the OP playing loose with their history, including our homes in a historic district ONLY because they can't write a proper code to protect them from the kind of development they don't want. At this moment in time, we have, except for a couple nut-jobs, a very smart and thoughtful HPC. This has not always been the case, nor can we assume it will be the case in the future. Also, by focusing on the outward appearance of these homes while ignoring some of the more costly infrasturcture issues that plague then is a huge problem. Sewage-filled basements will never be a desirable feature in a home.

Robin @ 3 acres & 3,000 sf said...

Ugh that totally sucks about your sewage issues! I hope they will do something about that. I can see both the pros and cons of being included in a historic district. But not being in a historic home myself I can say I enjoy being able to do whatever I want with our house. Someday I'd like to come visit the Oak Park area being a prairie and FLW fan. Almost every new public building in our area is influenced by his style. Because we're just a short drive from Taliesin.

Beverly bungalow said...

I definitely get your point. While our Beverly historic district is less restrictive, many of our neighbors share the issues you're experiencing with flooding and sewage.

One remedy that isn't being discussed enough is discouraging property owners from paving over every inch of their lots. There aren't many who go to that extreme in our 'hood (Bridgeport is a different story), but I've seen a big increase in paved areas over the last several years, which certainly isn't helping the flooding situation.

We removed our back yard concrete, replaced it with much more permeable stone paths and patio, and added another rain barrel. We'll be doing what we can to reduce runoff. I wish that more of our neighbors were thinking about this aspect of the problem.