Evanston aldermen Tuesday pledged to reexamine rules for construction of new single family homes after a local architect described the situation she faces with much larger houses being build on either side of her home this year.

A photo montage prepared by Elizabeth Beckman to compare sizes of homes on her block.

Architect Elizabeth Beckman of 2127 Forestview Road urged the aldermen to adopt a rule they rejected two years ago that would restrict new homes to being no more than 20 percent taller than the average of houses in the neighborhood.

She also said that recently adopted rules requiring extra protection for neighboring properties when a deep foundation is dug have led developers to use shallow foundations that raise the height of the basement above ground level.

Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said, “This flies in the face of everything I thought I voted on. Nobody ever mentioned that a single family home could be 48 feet tall.”

Community Development Director James Wolinski said the city adopted rules over a year ago that set maximum building height in such zones at 35 feet – but, to avoid ending up with flat-roofed buildings, the rule uses the middle of a pitched roof as the measuring point for the height limit.

The larger of the two new buildings on Forestview “has two or three gables and gives the appearance of being a taller structure,” Mr. Wolinski said, “but we’ve reviewed the building permits for both properties and they do comply with the zoning ordinance as it currently stands.”

Alderman Edward Moran, 6th Ward, said, “Liz’s situation is the poster child for the chaos that can be visited on a property owner with these huge houses in inappropriate settings. I want to ask the council to try again sometime this year to get some contextual limitations on the construction of new houses.”

“I have a teardown going up next door to me. It’s now up to the first floor and I’m literally looking up at their first floor, it’s a monstrosity,” Ald. Moran said.

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

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