Citizens Group Begins 'Landmarking' Coultrap

"Landmarking" is an option for anyone in Geneva who wants to protect a building from demolition. Now a citizen's group is beginning the process for the Coultrap facility.

A Geneva Patch blogger and member of the Historic Preservation Commission said Wednesday that a citizens group has started a process to give local "landmark" status to the Coultrap building.

about the local landmarking process, which was published on Geneva Patch at 10 a.m. Wednesday. By the afternoon, a group of citizens had approached city of Geneva's Community Development Director Dick Untch about how to start the process for the Coultrap facility, which is being considered for demolition by School District 304.

It's not a quick process. The procedure is as follows: 

"A public hearing is required to be conducted by the HPC on landmark applications. The landmark designation process requires mailing the public hearing notice to property owners within 250 feet of the proposed landmark property.

"Additionally, a newspaper public hearing notice must be published, and a public hearing sign must be posted on the property. The application must address specific standards. The HPC is required to prepare a report on the application prior to the hearing.

"After the hearing is conducted, the HPC is required to make written findings of fact, and submit them together with a recommendation to the City Council within 60 days of receipt of the application. The council is required to act on the application within 120 days of the city’s receipt of the application.   

"During the period beginning with the filing of an application for landmark designation and ending with the final action of the City Council on the application, no exterior architectural feature of any improvement or any site which is the subject of the application for landmark designation may undergo alteration, construction, demolition or removal."


  • Mike Bruno contributed to this report.
Bob McQuillan June 21, 2012 at 04:55 AM
@Mike Bruno: Sounds like you were aware of this group from the moment the school board sub-committee recommended demolition. From your comments, it appears that someone from the HPC was there at the beginning. My point is that the HPC is becoming a threat to property owners rights to do what they want with their property. If the landmark process is as you described, anyone can cause a delay on any property within Geneva. In my opinion, that isn't right just like frivolous lawsuits aren't right. Putting the ability to start a landmark status filing in the hands of any individual that wants is asking for abuse. All property owners are now under the thumb of the HPC and the city council. Again, in the wrong hands this power can be abused. Most support less government control not more. It will be interesting if this "citizens group" identifies itself and what approach they take with the school board. Also, will they listen to the opinions of other community members not agreeing with them. Guess time will tell. Wonder who is working behind the scenes advising the "citizens group?" Maybe we will find out on a Monday, Wednesday or Friday.
Mitotero June 21, 2012 at 12:09 PM
Thanks for your advice Mike. I guess one way to look at this situation is that the rights of property owners are being "controlled" or "threatened" by an unelected group. Another view is that our historic structures need protection from the wrecking ball. Throwing Joe Stantons name in this argument did nothing to support the case of property owners. He bought a significant structure in the historic district with full knowledge of his responsibilities. My recollection from the Pure Oil debate was that Bob McQuillan did not have a dog in that fight, although the above posts clearly show he supported Stanton. The Coultrap building being protected is not an obvious problem for the school board. Perhaps protecting it will force the board to look for better, cost saving, ways to provide the school district with building room, while saving a historic structure. Razing this building, then adding a new building in the future, way not be the best way to go. We do not want our next school board being relentlessly asked to explain why a perfectly good building was torn down at each and every board meeting. The Pure Oil debate, and now Coultrap, shows us that preservation is important to many Genevans. Once a building is gone, it is gone forever. Lets see the alternatives, with the associated costs. I think the argument that we should tear it down, and keep the land for future expansion, is not a well thought out, full facts option.
Mike Bruno June 21, 2012 at 12:59 PM
@Bob McQuillan: I was aware of citizen interest in landmarking because, when the school board subcommittee recommendation for demolition was discussed at HPC, a citizen approached the dais asking about landmarking. Interestingly enough, I discovered that the citizen that approached me was NOT involved with the person or persons who approached city staff to get information on the process. It seems there is ample interest on the part of the citizenry wholly independent of the HPC. And, as you will see in the minutes of our meeting, I spoke AGAINST the HPC pursuing landmarking. As far as "anyone" causing a delay....As far as I know, that is not anything unique to Geneva. You and I both have a disdain for frivolous actions that might pose a hardship for someone unnecessarily. In this area, though, Geneva has skilled staff that could likely vet these cases and council petitioners if they do not have a good case. In which case, Geneva would have *fewer* frivolous petitions than other communities. That said; city staff cannot tell a petitioner whether or not to pursue landmarking. Unfortunately, frivolous action is just a natural part of our civil and legal landscape. If you can think of a way to squash frivolous action while protecting other rights...I am all ears.
Dwight Swartwood June 21, 2012 at 02:15 PM
If the cost to taxpayers is minimal to process landmark status of the unused school, that seems OK. But, understanding the ongoing cost of maintaining the landmark is really important. This is when the tax payers should be involved in a up or down vote. Who takes on the financial decision and ultimate responsibility? From a historical and nostalgia point, landmarking has a purpose. But from a cost to taxpayers standpoint, we can take on little additional burden. Here is a question, why did all citizens show little or no interest in this building until now? Is it because now some people can force the least financial burden on others through the landmark process? Let's see this issue for what it is: A possible costly impact on taxpayers while adding little actual benefit to the community. A community that has shown no interest in the fate of Coultrap until now.
Steven Sheehan June 22, 2012 at 07:20 PM
As homage to Harry Coultrap, Geneva taxpayers should be required to spend whatever it takes to restore Coultrap to the grandeur envisioned by J.W. Royer in 1922. Similarly, we should be obligated to fund the restoration of the 1942, 1958, 1968 and 1974 additions. Once we bring back the magical nostalgia from each distinct era, we can then create a working school museum not unlike Blackberry Farm. Because we don’t have sufficient demand now, or for the next 10 years, according to Kasarda’s Nov. 2011 report to fill any of the seats with school age children, we can hire youthful looking adults to play the roles of students in period costumes. For example, visitors would pay to see how home economics and woodshop were taught in 1923 and hear about how ink was more closely associated with paper than skin. TIC It’s more than slightly ironic that Geneva’s downtown “crown jewel” corner was created when Harry and the school board decided to raze the Third Street School in 1926, following the completion of Coultrap. If only they had been preservation minded. Geneva would still have that fabulous 1855 Victorian with belfry tower in place of a hard to sell post office and a long empty bank.


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