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Geneva aldermen OK Mill Race landmark change

GENEVA – Geneva aldermen unanimously approved a recommendation to remove the historic landmark boundary of the entire Mill Race Inn property in the city’s downtown and apply it only to the 1846 limestone blacksmith shop and a smaller part of land around it.

The approval, given at the May 2 meeting, gives the owner, the Shodeen Family Foundation, more leeway to develop the 1.4 acre parcel, officials said.

The Historic Preservation Commission recommended approval April 19 after a public hearing. The City Council approved it May 2.

David Patzelt, representing the Shodeen Family Foundation, petitioned to have the landmark designation be the former blacksmith shop and one foot around it, rather than the whole parcel.

Instead, the commission followed a staff recommendation that the south boundary be 20 feet and the west boundary be set at the west property line abutting the Geneva Park District’s Island Park, which is 41 feet from the former blacksmith shop. The recommendation also was that the east boundary be 21 feet east of the limestone structure and that the north boundary be set at the property line abutting State Street.

Patzelt said the historic element is the stone structure, but staff said other items outside the structure should be considered. One of the items was the mill race – the part of the Fox River waterway that drove the mill wheel.

“I questioned staff why are we now going to declare landmark designation for a mill race that doesn’t exist any longer,” Patzelt said.

“And if we are going to declare on the Shodeen property the 41 feet, why are we not declaring part of the park district property because there is a mill race there?” Patzelt said. “The landmark designation should be consistent with what everybody’s been attempting to landmark and that is the remnant stone structure.”

To make his point, Patzelt showed pictures of historic landmarked buildings in Geneva that were allowed to have abutting structures.

Historic preservation planner Michael Lambert said the recommended area to keep landmark status on the mill race property aims to reflect “what the historic record identifies this property as having significance.”

“This is not a restriction of development,” Lambert said. “It’s just that if development occurs within the area that has historic significance … then that area would be reviewed by the commission just like any of those other buildings that were just shown that have development up near them.”

The historic significance is the stone structure was a blacksmith shop, a carriage shop and a paint shop, Lambert said.

“Geneva is here because of the industry that developed along the Fox River, so it’s a significant part of Geneva’s history,” Lambert said. “It’s not arbitrary. It’s looking at all the historic records and trying to figure out what was attached to this limestone building over time that fell within that period of significance from 1846 to 1945.”

First Ward Alderman Michael Bruno said the recommendation was a reasonable boundary. And if new construction were to encroach on the stone structure, Shodeen would have to show why it would need the extra feet.

“This boundary still doesn’t mean this building won’t be demolished,” Bruno said. “If we simply cannot get this adaptively reused – and that’s a whole other discussion – I think we’d have to accept the demolition.”

Source: The Daily Chronicle

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