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Viewpoint: Providing notice of landmark status

In my six years on the Preservation Commission, there were only 4 people who said they didn't know their property was a landmark.

All four abided by the Commission's decisions, one backed up by the City Council. (The owner hadn't got a building permit either).

  • The plan to put landmark/historic district status on the title/deed is like closing the barn door after the horse has gone to the Kentucky Derby.  Prospective buyers do not search the title until a few days/weeks before closing on the deal.  If they were to find out at closing that their property was a landmark there could be hell to pay, especially for the realtor and seller. This is not a useful way to notify people before they buy!
  • The Preservation League of Evanston is preparing an educational visit to all Evanston Realtors to inform them about the preservation process.  We will also give them brochures to give to prospective clients.  The first such meeting will take place within the next few weeks.
  • The League is also researching how landmark/historic district status can be noted on the MRED listing form which is given to alll prospective buyers.  This would be filled out by the realtor, thus necessitating the visit described above. This would be ample notice to the prospective buyer.
  • The League will also pursue the possibility of placing a flag on the City's website that would say: "So you want to buy a house in Evanston." This would direct the person to the About My Place page that gives a complete description of the property, including landmark/historic district status.
  • Recently, the tenor of the discussion on preservation review has been quite negative. For some reason, the positive aspects have not been mentioned. I will not discuss the advantages of preserving a community's history and built environment here.   The Cook County tax freeze available for commission-approved renovations is a chief reward for preservation work.  This tax freeze is for eight years, and the assessed value is then returned to current over four more years, for a total of 12 years of significant tax relief. It's too bad Mr. Kimball can't take advantage of this for his window replacements that caused this whole situation. 
  • Another positive aspect, substantiated by numerous studies in various parts of the country, is that landmarks and properties in historic districts can command higher resale value, all other things being equal.

Mary Brugliera is former member, and current associate member, of the Evanston Preservation Commission.

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