A Code For This, No Code For That…


What if you owned a home and your next-door “neighbor” raised the grade of his property between one and two feet above yours…before covering most of it with a McMansion and assorted paving to create a major rainwater run-off onto your property and into your basement?

Our informal, unscientific poll of about a dozen Park Ridge residents revealed the unanimous view that they’d be pretty darn unhappy.  The poll also indicated those same residents assumed that something in our City Code would prevent that from happening in the first place; or, at the very least, that the Code would require some structural features designed to ensure that the property captured its own water and did not become a nuisance to its neighbors. 

From the report in last week’s Park Ridge Journal (“Residents Claim New Home Causes Flooding,” September 30), that’s what residents Cliff Kowalski and Jeff Getz thought, too.  But, to their chagrin, they apparently were wrong – as they found out when they appeared before the City Council on September 21 to complain about how (according to them) City staff did nothing in response to months of their complaints about the new home at 322 S. Vine.

According to Carrie Davis, the City’s Director of Preservation and Community Development, there are no elevation standards in the City’s building code.  If that’s true, could some creative (and/or twisted) property owner build a mini-mountain for his new dwelling, limited only by the Code’s overall height limits for single-family residences?

Davis also noted that, prior to the new construction, the 322 S. Vine site was lower than its neighbors and accepted the run-off from the adjoining parcels.  So “[t]he new homeowners are taking care of their own drainage.” 

By diverting it onto their neighbors’ property?  That doesn’t sound like the best solution to us, nor does it sound like a shining example of how government is supposed to function.

Make no mistake about it: the new residence is a grand structure, certain to generate more property taxes from that parcel.  And it may enhance the overall attractiveness of that area, as well, depending on whether your taste in architecture runs toward stately stone manors.

But as Kowalski told the Council, he had no water problems before the new residence was built on its man-made mound.  That’s a comment we’ve heard with increasing frequency over the past several years, as newer, bigger homes and multi-family structures cover even more green space, creating additional demands on our infrastructure.

First Ward Ald. Joe Sweeney suggested withdrawing the temporary occupancy permit for the new structure while the problem is being analyzed and resolved.  That might put some pressure on the owner to become a little more invested in the semi-lost art of neighborliness.

And we have to give a Watchdog bark-out to Ald. Robert Ryan (5th Ward), one of our regular whipping boys, for pointing out that the City’s building code “appears to lack proper standards regarding elevations of new homes close to existing homes.”  As most 12-step programs make clear, admitting the existence of a problem is a crucial step in remedying it.  Now let’s see what Ald. Ryan does to help the City get to the next step on this problem.

In that regard, the Journal article reports that the City hired an “independent” engineering consultant who determined that there was nothing illegal or improper about the new structure.  Although the Journal does not identify that consultant, we understand that it was Bernie Bono of Bono Consulting. 

Ironically, that firm’s website has the following Q & A on its “Single Family Residential” page:

I have the lowest lot in the block, why do I have to accept my neighbor’s storm water runoff? Why can’t I just block it and let him deal with his own water?

Illinois drainage law states “Landowners, including highway authorities, have a right to drain water away as it would in a state of nature. Lower landowners, including highway authorities, have a responsibility to accept water flowing naturally onto or through their lands and have no right to interfere with such natural drainage.”


And we also understand that Bono was the consultant to the property’s owner and/or contractor.

Double Hmmmmm.