Porch proposal in residential area draws neighbor concerns     

Porch proposal in residential area draws neighbor concerns     
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The proposed addition of a screened-in porch onto a Naperville home sparked a recent discussion about city ordinances, homeowner’s association bylaws, and the delineation between the two sets of documents. 

Property owners Judith Wivell and Ron Szmurlo moved into their current home in late 2022 near Aurora Avenue and River Bluff Circle. Their home and property is a part of the River Bank Homeowners Association — a nod to the residential enclave’s close proximity to the DuPage River. 

Wivell and Szmurlo submitted a petition to the city, seeking a variance to construct a 170-square-foot screened-in porch and 50-square-foot wood deck. Several technical details, including rear and interior side yard setbacks, were examined at a Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on Wednesday, March 20.

Replacing a 1980s-era deck 

Wivell, who spoke to commissioners at the recent meeting, said the screened-in porch would replace an existing deck, built in the 1980s, which has been deemed in a state of disrepair. The plans submitted, she said, would remove an eyesore and improve the property. 

The deck has been located on the side lot of the home; the proposed screened-in porch, by contrast, would be located on the rear side of the home to afford riverfront views.

As plans were being drawn up, Wivell said she had discussions with neighbors about the plans for the property, and no immediate dissension was raised. Subsequent public comments sent to the city, however, offered a different take.

“As a homeowner, I was very surprised to receive the public comments,” Wivell said.

HOA gave the go-ahead, but neighbor concerns linger 

The board overseeing the River Bank Homeowners Association reviewed the screened-in porch proposal and gave Wivell and Szmurlo the go-ahead, so long as city approvals were granted for the technical setback details.

But specific property owners continued to have concerns, for several reasons.

Mary Agnes Dixon, who lives adjacent to Wivell and Szmurlo, said she had concerns the screened-in porch addition would impact her property values. 

“It would obstruct my side view of the river,” she said.

Resident Ruth Hild shared with commissioners some of the HOA’s specific bylaws. The screened-in porch proposal, she said, is not in concert with the document.  

“It was conceived that we all would maintain the same look,” Hild said. “This does not fit. No one else in there has added anything like this. We don’t want any sore thumbs.”

Commission limits its review to city ordinance 

While commissioners heard concerns from the nearby residents and listened to the HOA’s bylaws, panelists emphasized their purview was limited to municipal code — and, in this specific instance, relegated to yard requirement standards.

“We are here to enforce the laws and covenants of our city, just to be clear,” commissioner Oriana Van Someren said, pointing out issues such as uniformity would have to be taken up within the confines of the HOA board.

Assistant Planner Brad Iwicki said several city staffers made site visits to the property; no red flags were raised.

“The engineering team reviewed the request and noted the floodway adjacent to the DuPage River,” Iwicki said. “This floodway is shown to encroach minimally onto the subject site, but maintains at least 27-foot separation from the structure.”

Commissioners did direct Iwicki to address one lingering matter before Wivell and Szmurlo’s petition goes before the city council for a binding vote. They asked for consultation from the fire department to determine whether emergency responders would have access to the site under the revamped configuration.

Van Someren and other commissioners said they were hopeful the entire neighborhood could reach a consensus on the proposal, relative to the HOA bylaws.

“Hopefully you can all get along and have some wine on the new screened-in porch together,” Van Someren said.

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