Trustees rib colleague over request for larger porch

Wilmette village trusteeson July 22 approved zoning variations allowing a Maple Avenue couple to enlarge their porch.  |  File photo
Wilmette village trusteeson July 22 approved zoning variations allowing a Maple Avenue couple to enlarge their porch. | File photo

Trustee Mike Basil came in for some good-natured ribbing July 22, when a home that Basil once renovated came before him and his colleagues because its owners wanted to build a large front verandah on it.

He and the board eventually approved the request, but not before Trustee Cameron Krueger – who had listened to Basil report his 2007 involvement with the house before the discussion started as a matter of public record – got in a friendly dig at his colleague.

Bret and Denise Schneider, owners of 1233 Maple Ave. in south-central Wilmette near the Evanston border, were asking for setback and size variations that would allow them to replace their small front porch with a larger one that wraps around one corner of the small four-square house.

The request had been turned down by the village’s zoning board of appeals, but the Schneiders said at the village board meeting that they had received letters of support for the project from neighbors. They also showed trustees pictures of similarly sized and designed porches in the neighborhood.

According to their research, the couple said the 106-year-old house originally had a fuller porch, before some previous renovation cut it down to its current size.

The Schneiders said they had seen plans that originated from Basil’s ownership, which showed a much larger porch that was ultimately not built before he sold the house to the family that eventually sold it to them. They thought the Basil-era design was too large, they said, but they did want to enlarge what they currently have.

Denise Schneider said she and her husband believe the very small porch they now have prevents them from making full use of it as neighbors do with their larger verandahs, and thus represents the kind of hardship that would let the board grant zoning variances.

Trustee Ted McKenna was skeptical, asking, “So not having a table on your porch is a hardship?” He was the only trustee to vote against the request, although he said he would have supported the plan had it been just a little smaller.

Other board members, including Krueger and Trustee Alan Swanson, were more sympathetic. Swanson said the larger porch, which would be seven feet deep across the front and slightly deeper where it wrapped around one side, added to the ambience of the neighborhood.

The concept of hardship was a difficult one, he said, “but historically we’ve wrestled with this many times.”

Krueger agreed. Although the zoning board of appeals made a correct decision in rejecting the hardship argument, “I think we have the luxury of looking past that a little bit,” he said, adding that he was also impressed by the support the Schneiders had from their neighbors.

At that point, he turned and grinned at Basil: “It’s funny; when I first saw this, I thought, ‘Oh, the developer when they first renovated this place blew it, they should have wrapped the porch around the house,’” Krueger said, eliciting a burst of laugher from his colleague.

When Village President Bob Bielinski said that he agreed with Krueger about neighborhood approval, Basil asked, “Do you agree with trustee Krueger that the developer blew it? Because I think I agree.”

VERANDAH VARIANCE

WHAT: request for larger porch

FROM: village board

OUTCOME: approved

LOCATION: http://bit.ly/1rPTCsu

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