Naperville reviewing landmarking procedures

On the heels of the Naperville City Council's decision to deny landmark status to the downtown Kroehler YMCA facility, officials are proposing changes to the city's landmarking procedures.

The changes, which need city council approval, are intended to reduce the impact on property owners and make it more difficult for applicants to achieve landmark status for structures.

The idea of forcing landmark status on property owners emerged as a key issue in February when the city council voted 8-1 to reject the request by Naperville Preservation to landmark the Kroehler YMCA against the owners' wishes. The vote freed the owners to demolish and sell the site.

After numerous speakers at last week's city council meeting debated the idea of creating more-stringent landmarking regulations, and based on recommendations by Councilman Ian Holzhauer, city staff was directed to return with an ordinance preventing individual citizens from applying for landmark status.

Holzhauer said the change would streamline the process and keep it in the hands of the city council, where a majority of council members would need to agree to pursue landmark cases.

Holzhauer's other recommendation would establish a program to educate the public and encourage property owners to voluntarily seek landmark status. City Manager Doug Krieger, however, said a website and other features of a new program would take several months to develop and implement.

"A lot of these programs don't even cost a lot of money," Holzhauer said. "It could just be giving recognition to, 'Hey, if you have a historic home that could potentially qualify for a landmark, here's a website where you can go to and find out how to do that.'"

Five of the eight council members agreed to Holzhauer's recommendations. Instead of seeing the landmarking changes carried out in segments, Councilman Paul Hinterlong said he'd prefer to have everything done at once, even if it takes time to reach that point.

"I see this as a lot more work to be done," Hinterlong said. "I want to see the stakeholders get together in a room and work out some of the kinks that are in here. We're divided. We've got two sides."

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