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Letters to the Editor

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By The Staff

Historic district guidelines are clear

To the editor:

I’m shocked at David  Voegele’s choice of adjectives when describing behavior of the La Grange Historic District Commission. (Letters to the Editor, Aug. 13 edition).

The council meeting included an appeal of the decision by the LHDC to deny a certificate of appropriateness for a sign. 

The historic district guidelines, available at the city of La Grange Web site, are clear.  

Chairman Gary Williams respectfully reiterated that commissioners couldn’t deem appropriate a sign in major conflict with guidelines. The other member present said nothing. 

Williams said the city is required to follow its own laws; something on which we can all agree. Williams also said responsibility for following zoning laws falls to the architect. 

A police officer present was required to address other behavior. No reprimand was directed to members of the historic district commission. 

… Voegele and members of the Parks Board fail to understand that LHDC can only practice that compromise after the application is filed. Once a project is complete, the opportunity to accommodate special needs of the applicant is lost. 

The Parks Board’s misunderstanding about appropriate timing cost them this opportunity. 

The Parks Board applied for a certificate of appropriateness after their sign had been constructed… The board spent six months planning the sign. 

The city’s sign ordinance states that freestanding signs must have a setback of no less than five feet, a maximum height of six feet, a maximum sign area of 20 square feet and a maximum monument area of four square feet. Memorial signs are exempt but must be characteristic with the surrounding area. 

Historic district guidelines state all yard signs and freestanding signs must be presented to the commission at a regularly meeting. No yard sign can be over five feet tall from the ground or larger than 12 sq. ft. per side. It can have only two sign sides. Yard signs can have indirect light shining on them, but no internal illumination. 

The Parks Board sign has a setback of four feet, measures nearly seven feet high, has a sign area of nearly 37 square feet, a monument area of 16 square feet and features internal illumination.  

… Inclusion in the historic district is voluntary. Of those residing there before official designation, only one person spoke against it. 

… One reason for the designation is “we protect historic buildings and particularly historic districts because those structures and environments are part of our collective inheritance and not just personal property....”.   

Some have suggested a tax to fund preservation projects chosen by the commission rather than rather than residents’ applying for a certificate of appropriateness when they choose to invest in their homes. 

I’ll admit I find this an interesting idea, and will gladly welcome any money for home improvements sent my way. 

Linda Corbin, La Grange

 

Misinformation, rumors about sign need to be cleared up

To the editor:

There has been much innuendo, many half-truths and some outright falsehoods lately about the sign placed in front of the James T. Beaumont Community Center, and its time to establish some facts. 

First, the sign is not a memorial for Mr. Beaumont, the center is. The sign is simply that – a sign. Because the sign is placed within the historic district it must comply with the historic district’s guidelines. The guidelines are part of a city ordinance passed unanimously by the city council and by law must be complied with, even by the city. 

It has been stated that the sign is merely inches out of compliance and therefore should have been allowed. In fact it exceeds three different dimensions established by the guidelines and is several feet out of compliance. It also has internal lighting which is also not in compliance.

 It has been stated that the LHDC recommended that the sign be removed.  This is untrue. From the beginning the LHDC recommended that the sign simply be brought into compliance, and made recommendations on how to achieve this. 

The sign’s designer is required to ensure that the design be in compliance with all ordinances, and if they fail to do so, should correct the mistake.  

In fact, designers and architects carry insurance to cover just such instances. Therefore it should not cost the city to have the sign brought into compliance. However, the head of the La Grange Parks Board (and by their vote, members of the city council) refused to make any changes.  

It has been said that I question the legality of the city council’s action. This is true. However, this is based upon the fact that case law shows that municipalities are not exempt from complying with their own ordinances.  

By upholding the appeal, the city council voted to exempt the city from complying with its own ordinance…in my opinion legally questionable. 

But more importantly, what message are they sending to the people of La Grange who are required to follow the guidelines?

It is because of this I have resigned as a member of the LHDC. I cannot in good conscience enforce guidelines upon the citizens of La Grange when the city council has shown that they feel the guidelines should not apply to the city.  

Elected officials should never place themselves above the voters, or the law.

Gary Williams, La Grange