City debates its process for landmarking

Breanne Gilpatrick

The nomination of the Oakton Historic District for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places has city officials debating what Evanston must do when a property is up for landmark designation.

At the Oct. 11 Evanston Planning and Development Committee meeting, a discussion about the Oakton district led to confusion about the process the Evanston City Council and the Evanston Preservation Commission must follow when commenting on buildings nominated for National Register status.

Oakton district resident Barbara Gardner mentioned problems with the landmarking procedures used for the Northeast Evanston Historic District and The Georgian, a retirement hotel at 422 Davis St.

Gardner said she was concerned that Evanston could lose its status as a certified local government if it didn’t follow procedures set by the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

Evanston is one of 55 city and county governments statewide that are designated as “certified local governments,” and is eligible for federal grants for preservation, said Michael Ward, local government services coordinator for the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency.

But after last week’s debate, Evanston is examining whether the city’s preservation ordinance conflicts with the 1985 state agreement that established Evanston’s certified local government status, said Carlos Ruiz, Evanston’s senior planner and preservation coordinator.

Ruiz said the Preservation Commission requested legal advice on the situation, and at the Oct. 11 meeting, Ald. Arthur Newman (1st) said he would prefer commissioners wait for the legal opinion before reviewing the issue.

But Ald. Ann Rainey (8th), whose ward includes the Oakton district, said she didn’t want the district to lose the opportunity to become part of the National Register because the city missed the state deadline, which originally was set for Nov. 8.

“If you want to dicker about the process go ahead,” Rainey said. “But don’t hold this district hostage.”

Tracey Sculle, survey and national register coordinator for the Illinois Preservation Agency, said the state extended the deadline one month to Dec. 8.

Sculle said the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council, which decides which National Register nominations to pass on to the the state historic preservation officer, does not always need city comment.

“(The city) can choose to comment or (it) can choose not to comment,” Sculle said.

Reach Breanne Gilpatrick at [email protected]

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City debates its process for landmarking