Turns out the vote last week leave the Pure Oil building standing wasn't as final as everyone thought -- including Geneva aldermen, which led to a lot of confusion Monday night for both the city council and audience members.
Building owner Joe Stanton appealed last week's recommendation by the council's committee of the whole to deny demolition of the building.
In the end, the result was the same. The council refused to allow the building's demolition by a vote of 8-2, after more than three hours of discussion by the council, the building's owner and members of the public.
Mayor Kevin Burns told the council that because last week's meeting was a committee of the whole meeting, all it did was make a recommendation to the city council and the full council had to vote on the building owner's appeal. Burns then asked for a vote "affirming" last week's vote, saying it was a matter of "housekeeping" to memorialize what happened last week. All 10 aldermen voted in favor of upholding the committee of the whole's recommendation, including the three who voted last week to demolish the building.
It really was the binding vote on upholding the denial of the demolition of the 75-year-old building at 502 W. State St. that led to lots of murmurs and hisses from the audience when it was announced that any of those 10 could make a motion to reconsider the matter -- not just the seven aldermen who last week voted to save Pure Oil.
However, that argument was moot when two aldermen who didn't want Pure Oil torn down moved and seconded for reconsideration of that vote, saying they wanted to afford the owner all the rights to make his case again, as allowed by law.
About 90 people attended the meeting. People made many of the arguments they made last week for preventing the demolition.
Stanton called on a commercial real estate broker and a banker to support his case that the cost of fixing up the building would require rents so high, he likely couldn't find a tenant. The banker testified that it was unlikely a bank would grant financing for the work, because that would drive the loan-to-value ratio on the property to 109 to 138 percent.
Stanton bought the building in 2006 for $485,000; he owes $365,000 on the mortgage. He proposes
to build drive-through lanes for a bank that would move into the building next door, at 514 W. State, also owned by Stanton.
Some said, again, that Stanton knew, or should have known, when he bought a building in the historic district that the property would be subject to special restrictions and require extra spending and care.
A letter from real estate developers Jerry and Carol Boose in support of Stanton's case was submitted. Carol Boose went through a similar debate when she proposed changes to the building that housed the Geneva Theater.
Burns got angry when resident Paul Descoteaux, the son of former alderman Paul Descoteaux, pointed out that Carol Boose had donated to Burns' recent campaign for county board chairman. Stanton volunteered for Burns' campaign.
Resident Bob McQuillan suggested that both sides hold off for a month and try to reach a compromise. Burns raised a similar point, again asking the crowd if it was important that the building stay where it is. A motion to table the matter failed.