A family of five is fighting to add a second full bath to their historic home but is facing pushback from the city.
Rosie and Mark Anglewicz have lived in Elmhurst for 14 years, and in that time, their family has grown. They purchased a historic home in 2008 with intentions to renovate the space.
“We bought this house knowing we’d have to improve it," said Rosie Anglewicz. "We never thought we would go through this.”
The home on Elmhurst Avenue only has one full bathroom and is on the third smallest lot in the city, which poses problems for expansion plans. It was built in 1890, well before a maximum lot coverage zoning requirement was put in place in 1924. That ordinance says “no building, together with its accessory structures, shall occupy in excess of 30% of the area of the lot upon which it is constructed.”
In a statement, the city of Elmhurst said the ordinance is in place to “preserve the open space and prevent the overcrowding of land in residential neighborhoods.”
“We’re asking for something very modest and to not have to move our family,” said homeowner Mark Anglewicz.
His family initially submitted their bathroom variation proposal in August 2019, which would have covered 36% of the property. It was denied by the city council in December.
“I understand they’re trying to do their job, but if you look at it from a common sense perspective and what we’re trying to do here, it just makes sense for us to be able to do something that’s really going to not impact the lot very much," Mark said. "And all of our neighbors around us are in support."
The family was allowed to resubmit a new proposal for consideration that would not exceed a 30% limit. The family agreed to compromise and submitted two options that will be decided on Tuesday night. One plan would meet the 30% coverage but take space from existing bedrooms, while the other would allow them to expand the structure and cover 31% of the property. The family said the latter option would cause them the least hardship.
“The issue is with the 30%, we have to move out of the house because the bathroom will be and the plumbing is all going to be redone. They’re going to take out the back wall of the house, so they’ll be exposure obviously from the outside coming in, and they have to (change) the layout. So, it’s going to displace us into a rental for about three to four months. So, that’s going to add probably another $8-10,000 to the cost of the project,” said Mark.
The family’s attorney with the Citizen Advocacy Center calls their situation perfectly within the bounds of a variation because they’ve proved it is unique, they have a hardship, and the project will not negatively impact their neighbors. He is hopeful the proposal will pass, despite the fact at least one council member has already said he’d reject it.
“We really have tried to help them and with the code we have, which has been a place a very long time, and we are very clear up front it’s a hard standard to be," said Michael Honquest, the aldermen of the city’s 6th ward and chair of the Planning, Development and Zoning Committee. "We looked at the historic nature of their home, and even in that case, they would still have to meet the code requirements."
When asked if he’d support the 31% proposal Tuesday, Honquest said he would not.
The family has received overwhelming support from their community, including neighbors they have yet to meet. Jennifer Ladisch Douglass is a realtor in Elmhurst and wrote a letter to the city on the family’s behalf.
“It would only increase their overage by a small amount, I just feel like it’s the right thing to do to give them this,” said Ladisch Douglass. “I was surprised they weren’t approved given the unique situation the family is in with the lot being so much smaller than standard, and that it’s so old.”
If the proposal does not pass Tuesday, the Anglewicz’s said they may have to find a new place to live.
“We don’t want to move, we love our neighborhood, we love our house and we love this community,” said Mark. “Even if we wanted to move, this house was on the market for two years when we bought it. We bought it to improve it,” Rosie said.
To read the documents related to this case, click here.
On Tuesday night, the city council voted in favor of a variance that will let them build the addition.