Getting Closer To Preserving Our Character?


The City of Park Ridge is one step closer to voting on an ordinance intended to encourage the preservation of old and historically significant buildings following Monday night’s City Council Procedures & Regulation (“P&R”) Committee of the Whole (“COW”) meeting to discuss the draft ordinance crafted by the Historic Preservation Task Force.

We like old buildings that add character to the neighborhoods they grace, and we prefer them to some of those F.A.R.-fudging, cookie-cutter structures that have popped up around town in recent years.  But we also favor the rights of individual property owners to decide what to build on their land, unless those rights are in conflict with an over-riding public purpose.

We also are naturally suspicious of grandiose and factually suspect government pronouncements, like some of those we found in Section 23-1-1 D [pdf] of the proposed ordinance, such as that preservation will  “[s]tablilize and improve the economic vitality and value of the City in general” and “[e]nhance the City’s appeal to visitors so as to support and stimulate commerce.”  

We’re surprised somebody couldn’t find a way to stick “vibrant” in there somewhere.

But unless and until we can identify and ensure the preservation of a lot more “historically significant” buildings in Park Ridge than we here at PublicWatchdog currently are aware of, we don’t see our community becoming a national attraction akin to “Colonial Williamsburg” anytime soon.  That means our City Council and Staff better figure out how to close the multi-million dollar budget holes without counting on an avalanche of tourist dollars.    
The concept is a good one in principle, however, and we hope the proposed ordinance gets a thorough hearing on issues such as whether, and at what cost, the City will be able to effectively preserve historically significant buildings from being torn down or dramatically altered by their owners or developers – unless the City uses already-scarce public funds to acquire them.

We would also like to see somebody (the to-be-created Historic Preservation Commission?) begin pro-actively identifying, at least on a threshold basis, all the structures that are likely to qualify for historic preservation status and why, so as to give both their owners and the City some idea of the scope of the preservation task at hand.

We understand that the ordinance will be on the City Council’s agenda this coming Monday (September 28, 7:30 p.m.).  For those who believe in the preserving the character of our community, that might be a meeting worth attending.