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Vote put off on the fate of old house

WOODSTOCK – City officials tabled a vote on whether to allow the demolition of a more than 100-year-old house to create a parking lot.

The renter-occupied property at 122 Newell St. sits immediately south of the Department of Child and Family Services building owned by Tom Harding of Woodstock. Harding said he intends to buy the property if he can raze the house for parking.

The property has been well-maintained, city officials said.

“You’re asking us for an up-and-down vote to tear down a perfectly good building, and I don’t know that I’m comfortable with that,” Councilwoman Maureen Larson said.

Harding intends to add 5,000 square feet to his current building to make room for a branch of the Illinois Department of Human Services, which has indicated it would locate there. But a lease with DHS and the renewal of a lease with DCFS hinges on whether Harding can provide more parking.

The state requires a minimum of 48 spaces. Harding has 41 — 37 spaces in a parking lot and four on the street. The lot at 122 Newell St. would give him the additional parking he needs.

“The state won’t enter into lease until there are 48 guaranteed spaces,” Harding’s attorney Tom Zanck said.

The property is part of the city’s historic district, therefore the idea of razing the house first went to the city’s Historic Preservation Commission. The commission rejected Harding’s request, and he asked the City Council to overturn that ruling Tuesday.

Councilman Mike Turner suggested providing on-street parking spaces for the two agencies rather than to demolish the house. The parking spaces would be restricted at all times to parking for the agencies.

All council members indicated they would be in favor of dedicating on-street parking. Councilmen Mark Saladin recused himself because his law firm represents Harding. Mayor Brian Sager attended the meeting by telephone because he is out of town.

Harding said he would ask state officials whether on-street parking would be sufficient, but he told the council he has to have his building addition ready for the new state tenants by December.

“What I’m concerned about more than anything is timing as it relates to construction,” he said. “I had to get started like, yesterday.”

The council tabled any action until the Aug. 21 meeting, unless Harding hears from the state and requests a special meeting.

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