Two aldermen stalled an effort to avert disputes over landmarked properties this week, claiming it would cost too much money.

The proposal, developed by city staff in response to a request last fall from the Planning and Development Committee, has two components.

  • City staff, working with the Preservation Commission and a consultant, would develop documents identifying the historic and architectural significance of 475 buildings already designated as landmarks that are located outside the city’s historic districts. That’s expected to cost $28,500 and would provide formal guidance to owners and the commission about what aspects of a building are most deserving of protection.
  • A notice of each property’s landmark status would be filed with the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. That’s designed to provide undeniable notice to any prospective buyer or buyer’s attorney doing a title search that the property is subject to the city’s restrictions on alterations to landmark properties. Preparing and filing those documents is estimated to cost $24,700.

City staff lined up a grant from the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to cover 70 percent of the project cost.

But Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward, said at the Administration and Public Works Committee meeting Monday that the owners of the landmark properties — not the city — should have to pay for the project, although she offered no suggestion for how the city might legally compel them to do so.

She also argued that real estate brokers should know a property is a landmark and tell their clients and suggested she would only favor some notice, like posting a list of landmarks on the city website, that wouldn’t cost the city any money.

Alderman Coleen Burrus, 9th Ward, said she agreed with Rainey that the project was a waste of money.

The lack of an undeniable notice to new homeowners that the property they’ve purchased is a landmark has led to disputes between homeowners and the Preservation Commission — including one last fall in which aldermen ultimately overruled the commission and let David Kimball install new vinyl windows he’d already purchased for his home at 2623 Lincoln St.

City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz defended the project proposal saying the city was unlikely to ever again have the opportunity to get the grant funding from the state and that with the state funding the project “is very inexpensive for the city.” The city share of the cost would be $15,960, of which $7,980 would be an in-kind contribution of staff time.

With Alderman Jane Grover, 7th Ward, absent from the meeting attending a National League of Cities meeting in Washington, that left the committee with an apparent 2-2 split on the issue and committee members voted to hold the proposal until their next meeting. 

Related story

Recording plan aimed to avoid landmark disputes

Bill Smith is the editor and publisher of Evanston Now.

Join the Conversation


  1. Who pays for homeowner’s mistakes?

    It is important to recognize that Mr. Kimball's lack of awareness of his home's preservation status was not the only mistake he made.He worked with a realtor who did not know (or did not reveal) the landmark status of the house.  He also hired a contractor who didn't talk to the building deparment  before or during planning and bidding the project.  And Mr. Kimball bought his windows before he had a building permit.     

    So the rest of us should pay for his lack of due diligence?

  2. Landmark Status Notice

    I was told several years ago by by several members of the Preversation Commission that they weree in process of trying to determine if all the homes listed as Landmarks should be.

    Each home already has a "Statement of Significance". form. I raised question  about mine cause the items listed appeared to be common to a lot of homes in area around me and they are not landmarks.

    A title search is usually done after the buyer and seller have agreed. If buyer is not aware of Landmark Status when he enters deal and doesn't want a landmark  home cause he knows about problems getting things approved. He may have problems getting out of the contract. When a home is listed is the best time for landmark status to be announced.

    1. Notice of landmark status

      It's easy to say that the broker "should" tell. But how are you going to enforce that? How will you prove that the buyer had notice?

      If the record is part of the formal title search, then the buyer has no legal leg to stand on in trying to claim later that he/she didn't know and that the rules shouldn't apply to him/her.

      [Warning: Opinion ahead.] Some people think the Preservation Commission does wonders in preserving the character of neighborhoods. Other people think of them as the "preser-nazis." Whichever — people should be given legal notice by the city before they purchase a home that is subject to landmark restrictions. And the city shouldn't rely on third-parties it can't control to deliver the message.

      — Bill

      1. Dangerous Opinion

        It is my opinion that your opinion is 100% dead-on-target.

        Some people have trouble recognizing logic.

      2. Legal Notice of Landmark

        I do agree Bill  Buyers need to know that the home they are considering Purchasing in Evanston is a Landmark  (BEFORE CLOSING).

        They only considering info on the title be added to 475 landmarks in Evanston? 


        1. For now …

          For now the proposal is limited to landmark properties outside of the historic districts.

          That's primarily because of the added cost of doing it for all the properties in the historic districts — and perhaps on the assumption that — because of street signage for historic districts — there's somewhat less chance a buyer would be surprised.

          — Bill

  3. Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde – Elected Officials

    Wow, now our elected officials are worrying about the money they are spending.  Is this the same group that wants to spend money to change the Evanston City Logo? The group that wanted to spend money on a Mobile City Information truck?  The group that wants to borrow millions to build a new ice rink?  Spends money on fancy lights on the sidewalks on Church St in downtown?  Give tax breaks to millionaires that own Auto Dealerships?  Now, they found a way to avoid problems for some home owners that pay the some of the highest property tax in the city and they found someone to pay 70% of it. Now they say no that is too much money. 

    1. Actually…

      The aldermen shot down the city manager's mobile city information truck idea. And they're trying to get the logo redesign done for free.

      — Bill

  4. If they (whoever they are)

    If they (whoever they are) address the issue of landmark status, they should also address the requirement that those who live in historic districts have to get approval from the preservation commission or the staff for certain external replacement items for their residences such as roofs,chimneys, windows, fences, etc.  What about people who bought houses 30 years ago and were not made aware of the requirement at the time of purchase? Was this even a requirement at that time?

     Plans for  construction also have to go through the committee and/or staff. We have houses going up on our block that are much too big for their small lots,are not particularly attractive, yet were approved by zoning and preservation.  Having watched the process, I fail to understand why we have a committee of citizens, appointed by a mayor, some well qualified and some maybe not so well, making these decisions. 

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