House on Newell could give way to parking
The state of Illinois wants to lease additional space at 113 Newell St. to house an office of the Illinois Department of Human Services, but a parking issue is keeping the project from moving forward.
Currently, the space is leased by the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. The state wants to lease additional space, which would require a 5,000-square-foot addition, which owner Tom Harding has indicated he would provide. The state also is requiring 48 parking spaces as part of the lease, but the property can only accommodate 41 spaces.
Harding approached the Woodstock Historic Preservation Commission July 23 seeking permission to demolish a house and garage on property at 122 Newell St. to make way for additional parking. At the meeting, the commission expressed concern about how the demolition would impact the historic character of the neighborhood since it is one of just two houses remaining on the block. The house is located in the Historic Preservation District. The commission also questioned the need for the additional spaces, as Harding did not have documents from the state indicating the need for parking. Ultimately, they recommended denying the certificate of appropriateness.
Harding asked for Council consideration at its Aug. 7 regular meeting.
“In fairness to the Historic Preservation Commission, they didn’t have all the facts available to them … and so they sort of punted [the question] to you,” Harding said.
Mayor Brian Sager, who attended the meeting by telephone, said that was the way he interpreted the commission’s decision. When asked if that was an accurate conclusion to make, City Manager Tim Clifton said he “can’t in confidence state that as the reason.”
The council, for the most part, agreed that other alternatives to tearing down the house should be explored. Councilman Mark Saladin recused himself from discussion due a conflict of interest.
“Taking down a house for [a few] parking spots seems crazy to me,” said Council member Julie Dillon.
The taxes the city will receive from an expansion, however, are significant. Currently, taxes on the 113 Newell St. office building are about $32,000 yearly. Harding estimates taxes will increase $8,000 to $10,000 with the addition, figuring in lost taxes from the house.
Council member Mike Turner asked if the city could designate nearby on-street parking to accommodate the state requirements.
Harding said he would be in favor of that, but said he worried that the state will want on-site parking, rather than street parking.
“These people are all in Chicago,” he said. “They have a whole different attitude than we do [about parking].”
Harding asked for the vote to be postponed to the Aug. 21 meeting so he could contact the state to confirm that street parking would suffice. If he hears from the state sooner, he could request a special meeting with the council, which would need to be posted 48 hours before the meeting could be held.
Harding said he needs to have the expansion up by the end of the year, which is the reason he may choose to request a special meeting.