Trustees say no-go to show home but reject neighbors’ concerns over unwanted visitors
Events at a conceptual home will not become reality following a vote from the Wilmette Village Board.
Trustees thought two weeks’ worth of tours and gatherings were too much of a strain on the neighborhood and on Tuesday, Feb. 28, denied a temporary-use permit for 1760 Washington Ave., a newly constructed home that owner, builder and designer Emily Mackie hoped to show off before it hits the market.
A showcase home is a modern marketing technique in which a furnished and accessorized home is modeled for interested parties, from home buyers to industry professionals (architects, interior designers, etc.). Mackie called it a “premium ecosystem” of a home and a “celebration inside this home.”
“The only thing (neighbors) would see is people walking down the sidewalk from St. Joe’s (the proposed parking location) to the house,” Mackie said. “I made it very, very clear there would be no noise disruption.”
The Village identified the events as commercial activity, which necessitates a temporary-use permit.
Despite Mackie’s promises, many of the home’s neighbors were not on board, and several of them came to the Feb. 28 meeting to express their concerns, such as traffic and public safety.
Many trustees heard their pleas, calling the application an overreach that is too impactful on the neighborhood.
“I think this has a major impact upon the neighborhood,” Trustee Peter Barrow said. “… This to me is simply an inappropriate, unneighborly activity to put in a residential district of this type.”
Prior to the public comment, which also included numerous speakers in favor of the showcase home, and following initial questions from the board, Mackie requested her application be tabled, giving her time to rethink her options.
During board discussion, trustees Kathy Dodd and Justin Sheperd said they were open to a less extensive event schedule and may vote in favor of one or two events — likening the potential events to house walks or residential fundraisers. Their idea, though, would require the applicant, Mackie, to amend her application and it did not pick up traction with the other trustees.
The board also did not think tabling the vote was necessary and unanimously turned down the application.
Village President Senta Plunkett said she hopes Mackie can find success with her idea with virtual events.
While the lighter schedule did not gain board consensus, Dodd made another point that did.
Dodd said she was disappointed to hear multiple speakers express concerns over unfamiliar faces in their neighborhood. One speaker said, “We know each other and alert police when someone is there who doesn’t belong there.”
“We started our night with a member of the Human Relations Commission (Gerry Smith) talking about wanting our community to be welcoming,” Dodd said. “I heard a number of our residents talking about the fact that they are uncomfortable having people they don’t know … entering a home. I’m disappointed to hear that.”
Her sentiment was echoed by her peers, including Gina Kennedy who said it is important that the board recognize Dodd’s point.
“The idea that our neighborhoods are only for the people who live in the houses in that neighborhood is offensive,” Kennedy said. “We are a welcoming community and we do want everybody in the village to feel perfectly comfortable walking down any street they want to — with our without a purpose.”
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Joe Coughlin is a co-founder and the editor in chief of The Record. He leads investigative reporting and reports on anything else needed. Joe has been recognized for his investigative reporting and sports reporting, feature writing and photojournalism. Follow Joe on Twitter @joec2319