Since last we met on this subject of executive session meetings, there have been multiple such closed door get-togethers in Chagrin Falls between the law director and members of the board of zoning appeals and separately with village council which could end up being the ultimate decider.

But the decider of what? We’ll get to that in a minute.

We are 99 and 44/100 percent Ivory Soap sure the subject of the their-ears-only sessions had to do with a pending appeal to decisions of the architectural review board and threat of legal action by the owner of a (circa 1918) historic home on North Street.

This could get ugly and expensive for the village so a good defense is a good offense. Let’s review.

In January, the ARB became aware that changes had been made to the house without its approval or benefit of building permits and agreed the homeowner must change out modern and inappropriate materials and restore original architectural details that were removed.

As one ARB member put it, the board’s mission is not to punish property owners but to save the village’s original architecture. The homeowner did not see it that way and soon asked the village board of zoning appeals to overturn the ARB demands.

The appeals board met Feb. 27. It didn’t start well. Early on the homeowner and his attorney asked the village to look into a history of overreach by the ARB then claimed one member was out to make an example of the North Street house by suggesting the board “draw a line in the sand” where unapproved construction is concerned.

After three hours of testimony, the appeals board chair had had enough. With certain evidence lacking and fatigue setting in, the hearing was continued to March 1.

Finding the audio record of the “line in the sand” meeting and comment was on a long list of items to be delivered to board members before they met again.

Then, just hours before the hearing was to resume, the applicant asked for a postponement. A new date is pending. We’ll let you know when that other shoe hits the floor.

Even after all of this, the decision could fall to the aforementioned “decider,” aka Chagrin Falls Council, the village’s supreme court in contested zoning and building matters.

Coincidentally, at the same time this was happening, the village released its annual report in which Mayor Bill Tomko updated changes in the village’s expenditures which, he wrote...

“...have increased 10-fold since 2019, going from under $2,000 to approximately $20,000 annually. We are currently spending 40 to 50% of our total legal expense on Architectural Board of Review, Board of Zoning Appeals and other zoning matters.”

We hope the powers-that-be are not worried about this becoming a burden but an investment in the long-fought-for controls that protect the village’s original architecture... the thing that keeps Chagrin... Chagrin.

The village’s boards and commissions which apply the rules of preservation do not do this in a vacuum. They get help of two un-paid certified architect-consultants who attend every architectural review board meeting.

The three voting volunteer members have deep backgrounds in architecture, preservation and construction arts.

Also onboard an “as needed” accredited historic architecture consultant who researches Chagrin Falls homes for historic significance when changes come before the ARB by applying property records, implementing village codes and guidelines as well as those set down by the U.S. Secretary of the Interior’s standards for the treatment of historic properties.

All of this means that the purchase of a 100-year-old house in Chagrin Falls comes with a distinctive set of obligations. Parking a hardline “property rights” mindset at the door is one of them.

The second is recognition no one “owns” a historically significant home but think of themselves as guardians of their health, integrity and historic significance to a place called Chagrin Falls.

Third is the understanding that updating a historically significant property is not prohibited but it does require adherence to building codes, architectural guidelines, approvals and permits.

Barbara Christian has covered the Chagrin Valley since the 1960s. Email her at: chagbarb@aol.com

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