Aldermen Manny Flores (1st) and Scott Waguespack (32nd) pledged joint support of the East Village and Ukrainian Village landmark districts. The two said they will work together to open up the city Department of Planning and Development's new construction review process.
Flores and Waguespack said they would meet with city planners later this month after representatives of the East Village Association and the Ukrainian Village Neighborhood Association outlined issues and offered suggestions on keeping remodeling work on track. The aldermen agreed to work with city agencies to improve the review process.
Permits are not required for minor repairs in the two landmark districts, but the city must sign off on roof, window and exterior wall repairs that alter what's seen at street level. However, details of those city approvals can be hard to find, and city building inspectors recently have stopped work at sites that have strayed from the approved details.
East Village Landmark District
Details of any sort can be scarce. The two districts cover scattered areas of East Village and Ukrainian Village, and no signs mark which addresses are included. The newer East Village district, which the city approved more than two years ago, is not even mentioned on the city's landmarks website. To find this map and a list of the properties involved requires a search of city records.
Aldermen agreed with residents that some community outreach was in order. Flores and Waguespack said a tight budget might rule out signs for the districts, but they said they would post maps of the district on ward websites and encourage the city to prepare an "owners manual" for property owners. The city does post a list of owners' frequently asked questions, and a 56-page document spelling out its landmark regulations.
Contractors in the landmark districts are required to stick to plans approved by the Building Department. They can be ordered to take down work that doesn't match the plans, and can be fined for every day the unauthorized work stays in place. Yet permits barely describe the project's scope, much less the city's restrictions.
UVNA's Jonathan Fine, also the president of the citywide group Preservation Chicago, proposed prominent on-site signs for landmark projects, and argued that the city planners were responsive to requests but lacked the staffing resources of other major cities.
The city's Landmark Division says it approves 1,800 permit requests annually, most within a day. But Scott Rappe, chairman of EVA's planning committee, said the landmark ordinance requires community review for major work. Neither EVA nor UVNA have been asked to weigh in on major work beforehand, Rappe said, and do not learn about approved permits till work is well under way. Flores and Waguespack said they would take steps to make the process more transparent.
Visiting the aldermen April 3 at City Hall were Rappe; Rich Anselmo and Stephen Rynkiewicz of EVA's Planning, Preservation and Development committee; EVA president John Scheer and UVNA's Fine.