Thursday, May 10, 2007

Historic Square – Really?

This week’s Woodstock Independent reported on the May 1 Woodstock City Council decision to levy a $6,500 fine “of-record” against Mike Levitan, owner of the Waverly Gold Note Lounge and Board member of the Woodstock Chamber of Commerce. It was noteworthy that TWI did not define “fine of record.” Is this a fine that Mike will have to pay, or is it on paper only?

In my usual shoot-from-the hip mode, I offer the following after reading and re-reading the article, trying to figure out just what happened.

Remodeling and renovation of a property within the Historic District is (well, we thought…) tightly controlled to preserve the integrity of the Square. Maybe this is why some of the buildings look like slums and haven’t been remodeled in years; let’s call it - - decades!

Why did the City Council cave in on this? A year ago a decision was made and a Certificate of Appropriateness (now there’s a catchy title) was issued. As we all know, the project has dragged on and on. No doubt it has become expensive, and even more costly than at first projected. But what’s new about that? Just check out the over-runs already projected for the County’s animal shelter in the old State Farm building in Crystal Lake.

When did it become possible for contractors to guess at costs (oh, wait; these are called Estimates) and then get away with huge additional expenses or, worse, errors?

So Mike started making some changes. And then, according to TWI, he had to “make quick business decisions, which led to him (more correctly, his) not getting in touch with city staff.” Oh, really? What business decision had to be made so quickly that he didn’t have time to dial 815-338-4300? Maybe those extra first-three digits used up the available time???

TWI stated that “Extending electrical power to his building alone cost $6,500.” What happened to the electrical power that was already there??? The building had electricity! Did the architect design a change in location for electric meters? Did the City approve the plans? Were the electric meters placed in/on property not owned by Mike, and he had to move them? Is that what cost $6,500? So is this why the Mayor suggested that Mike should not have been obligated to pay the $6,500?

Councilman Mike Turner got it right, when he commented on the deviations from the original plan.

What the City Council should have done, and should do at the next Council meeting, is require Mike to perform under the original Certificate. He should create the front of the building the way it was designed and approved. Otherwise, Mike is getting away with thumbing his nose at the City and at the City Council, and the Square will live with an eye-sore for years … until the next remodeling in, say, 50-75 years.

If the Woodstock Square is ever going to come back to life and be a true historic Square, then the building facades are going to have to look like it. Having those cheap-looking white window frames does not fit in with “historic”.

I laughed when I read the quoted remarks of Attorney Doreen Paluch and Chamber Executive Director Quinn Keefe. I’ll tell you what’s disgusting - - that Mike Levitan is getting away with not complying with the terms of the Certificate of Appropriateness; that’s what is disgusting. As for Quinn’s comment, there wouldn’t have been any fine at all, if Mike’s plan had put the electric meters on his own property in the first place.

The message needs to loud and clear from the City Council. When you make a deal, you are going to stick to it. Don’t come back later, whining for a change.

So now … about the fine…. When will Mike fork over the $6,500? Oh, it’s only of-record, you say? What does that mean???

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