After more than three-and-a-half hours of passionate testimony, parliamentary confusion, light outages, fables, facts and catcalls, the Geneva City Council came to the same conclusion it did a week ago as a Committee of the Whole:
The Pure Oil Building will stand.
The City Council voted 8-2 Monday, April 2, against a motion that—in essence—would have allowed a demolition permit for the historic, blue-roofed gas station building constructed in 1937.
City Hall was filled to standing-room-only capacity as residents on both sides of the issue addressed developer Joe Stanton's argument that the building is not economically viable in its present form or as an adapted re-use.
The public commentary ranged from the emotional to hard facts and figures.
"I’m a walker," said Charys Wheeler, 256 Kenston Court. "What a lucky town we are to have such beautiful streets. It would be heartbreaking—unconscionable—to demolish that building. Geneva has a vision, Geneva has imagination. And Geneva cares. If we were to destroy that building, it would appear that we’ve lost our vision, we’ve lost our imagination and we no longer care."
Mitch Belon, of 1231 Shoop Circle and MB Financial Bank, ran through the numbers, from the cost of improvements to the mortgage to the necessary pricing of rental space—just to break even with an adaptive re-use.
"In my opinion, it would not be possible for Mr. Stanton to achieve bank financing," he said. "I don’t know of a bank that would be interested in that loan."
Near the end of the long meeting, Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns and 1st Ward Alderman Sam Hill asked those in favor of preserving the property whether moving the building might be an option. Hill suggested the building could be moved to a location on or near the Fabyan Forest Preserve on Route 31, part of the original Lincoln Highway. Several members of the audience said "no," arguing that the building's present location in the downtown area is part of its architectural heritage and historic significance.
A motion to table the vote to the first council meeting in May failed 6-4.
In the final vote, 4th Ward Alderman Ron Singer and 3rd Ward Alderman Dawn Vogelsberg voted "yes" to the motion to overturn the Feb. 21 ruling of the Historic Preservation Commission.
Voting "no" were Hill and fellow 1st Ward Alderman Chuck Brown, 2nd Ward aldermen Richard Marks and Donald Cummings, 3rd Ward Alderman Dean Kilburg, 4th Ward Alderman Dorothy Flanagan, and 5th Ward aldermen Craig Maladra and Ralph Dantino.
"In my view, the proof (needed for demolition) just isn’t there," Maladra said. "I’m going to vote the same way I did last week, because preservation is so important to what makes Geneva Geneva."