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Evanston’s Preservation Commission will get to weigh in Tuesday night on whether to approve a new lakefront home that city officials concede meets all the city’s zoning rules, but — staff claims — fails to comply with their intent.

The property at 917 Edgemere Court was purchased in March by Adam and Susan Sabow for $1.8 million. A previous home on the property had been demolished in 2005

The plans for the new home, developed by Evanston-based Morgante-Wilson Architects, show a 5,394 square foot building, somewhat smaller than the average for the block, on a narrow but deep lot that is about the average size for properties on the block.

The home — with a two car garage out front connected to the house a covered loggia meets the front yard setback requirement of the zoning code. But Community Development Director Mark Muenzer says that it fails to meet the intent of having the front of the home itself in line with neighboring properties.

The front of the planned home, showing a portion of the covered loggia connecting it to the two-car garage at the west side of the lot.

Muenzer also claims that while the roofed loggia serves the purpose of avoiding having the garage considered detached — the intent of the zoning regulations is not to have a garage look like a detached structure in the front yard.

The lake-facing east, or rear, facade of the planned home.

Finally, Muenzer claims that while the design meets the rear yard setback requiremnt of the zoning code it still looks substantially different from some neighboring properties and the code’s intent would be better met if the home was positioned further to the west on the lot.

An aerial view from before 2005, with the home previously at 917 Edgemere circled. 

The property is located in the city’s Lakeshore Historic District, which gives the Preservation Commission authority to review plans for the new home and decide whether to issue a certificate of appropriateness for the project.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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12 Comments

  1. Meets Code EOD
    The family probably spent a great deal of money to have plans drawn that would meet the city’s code for this area. Like 95% of Evanston, I have no stake in this issue; other than, the Preservation Commission appears to be bullying another group around.

    The property was purchased, the plans were drawn, the plans met code, therefore build the house.

    End of Discussion.

    1. Don’t stop the home, stop the Preservation group
      The Preservation Committee should be abolished and ignored and any action they bring up, be declared a nuisance and they be fined for wasting city time and resources. Chicago’s Preservation group [Friends of the Park] should be a good example of how these groups run amok—in that case costing the city the Lucas museum and jobs.

      1. I support the Preservation Commission and oppose this project
        I live in the neighborhood (not on Edgemere), within eyesight of the reprehensible Nesbitt development and this empty lot. The design is not in keeping with the surrounding homes. A home of similar style and scale to the three homes to the south would be preferable. If the Sabows are interested in such a large home, they should consider a larger lot.

    2. It’s their own fault if they are current Evanston residents

      I will never understand why someone who is going to spend that kind of money would choose Evanston over one of our neighboring suburbs to the North. Assuming property taxes are equal on million dollar plus properties (if they even matter to the purchaser), why would anyone want to jump thru all the hoops Evanston has them go through and then be told that the rules have just been changed, now try again. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice shame on me !

  2. Meets requirements – that should be all.

    It should be enough for a project to meet zoning and other regulations. If intent has to be discussed, it will be a matter of subjective opinion on both sides, in which case we all lose, as it would create uncertainty for future property owners. I for one, am a proponent of architecture that reflects our times and lifestyles. After all, who would drive a car or use a phone that looks like it was made in 1950? I am sure most neighboring properties have the latest kitchen appliances, TVs, security systems, wireless networks, etc…why pretend with a facade that we live in times long gone?

  3. Why not wait?
    The two comments made so far seem to be intent on bashing the Evanston Preservation Commission as to this proposed home. A reasonably careful reading of the article would reveal that this matter is not scheduled to be heard by the Commission until tomorrow night. All of the responses in the article to the proposed construction and application were made made by City staff members and not members of the commission. I can only believe that the “Commission bashers” have axes to grind for other reasons unrelated to this case. If you do have a complaint as to this matter, why not take it up with the City administrators who hired and promoted the paid employees that have reviewed this project and are quoted in the article.

    I always thought that the boards and commissions were established to provide citizen and community counter-balance to the actions of City employees. Apparently there are some Evanstonians who would rather eliminate those checks-and-balances and then howl at the moon.

    1. get over yourselves!
      The committee needs to rein in their desire to pretend that Evanston is like a second Rome or Athens. There’s nothing particularly historic about it.

      1. a 2nd Rome?
        Have I missed the orgies, bacchanals, gladiators, wild animals in the arenas of ancient Rome or the excesses of the Borgia popes? If you are referring to architecture,there are few examples among most of the historic residences and neighborhoods of the styles of ancient Greece or Rome and even you seem to acknowledge that point. Obviously you seem to miss what this particular commission does or is empowered to do. In this case, based on what has been shown in the article the issue seems more about the location of the home on the lot, its relationship to its neighbors,and whether sticking one of the two garages all the way out at the front and then connecting it to the house in order to circumvent the Zoning (not Preservation) ordinance is appropriate. Unless I am incorrect it only comes before the Preservation commission because of where it is located and not because someone wants to ensure classical architecture.

        1. I think I understand this quite well…
          The reason for the rule’s existence is to perpetuate fashions of 100-200 years ago, when garages used to contain noisy smelly horses. People used to place houses by the street and horses by the dirty alley.

          The people who bought the parcel, demolished old structure and hired architects want to live in a house that’s exposed to the lake and isolated from the street. So “boulevardiers” won’t get to gawk at the facade. Big deal!

    2. Why Not Wait

      I agree.  The comments may not even be from Evanston residents.  Evanston has a fine architectural history and I think that we need to protect the integrity of our neighborhoods in that vein.

      1. Repeat after me…
        … There’s nothing of historical significance to 100 year old houses. Especially after the downtown has been remodeled.

        We need more modern architecture for single family homes here in Evanston. For the record, I lived in one of those old houses in a “historic district”.

  4. Eyesore

     I don't know if you've seen the empty lot but it is an eyesore and should be improved. The proposed house is beautiful and the owners have been very accommodating to changing their plans. It's a contemporary design and like others here have said, in keeping with how people live today. In addition, these owners are willing and eager to pay our ridiculous property taxes Let's welcome them.

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