ELMHURST, IL – Elmhurst aldermen on Monday approved a zoning request that will allow the teardown of a nearly century-old house and construction of a larger one.

This decision followed two months of residents’ objections.

On Monday, neighbors spoke out again. One said the latest request “poked the bear” for historic preservation. Even the mayor acknowledged preservation efforts had gone relatively dormant.

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The house in question is at 292 S. Arlington Ave., which is in a neighborhood of larger, older homes. Many have been demolished over the last couple of decades.

In March, Richard “RJ” and Alyssa Parrilli bought the house for nearly $2 million. They asked for a zoning change that would let them merge their two lots, one of which is vacant.

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The City Council voted 12-1 for the zoning request, with only Alderman Rex Irby dissenting. Alderman James Nudera was absent.

The house at 292 S. Arlington Ave. is nearly a century old. The new owners plan to tear it down to make way for a new house. A video tour of the house is available online. (David Giuliani/Patch)

In his comments, Irby said he feared the rezoning would set a precedent allowing consolidation of lots for larger houses.

However, Alderman Michael Bram disagreed, saying each situation is treated individually.

Many aldermen said they sympathized with the neighbors’ objections.But they said the city ordinance required they follow specific criteria for a rezoning request.

“If we could force people to buy and do with their land what we’d want, I would keep that house,” Alderman Guido Nardini said. “I love that house. It’s a beautiful old house. I have fond memories of that neighborhood.”

He said that while the city was losing a beautiful home, it was increasing the local tax base. And he held out the possibility that the council may go a different way the next time, based on the facts at hand.

After the vote, Mayor Scott Levin said the council made the right call. He said he recalled a local zoning commissioner who joked, “I have no problem with regulating taste as long as it’s mine.” In reality, he said a balance exists between property rights and preservation.

During public comments, Cathy O’Neill, who lives a couple of blocks away from the house in question, said she cries when she sees orange construction fences going up. They signal teardowns are in the works.

In her speech, O’Neill described local advocates of historic preservation as bears. For a long time, she said, the bears assumed no one was going to take down the older homes in the neighborhood.

But she said they were wrong.

“We said, ‘Wait, this can’t be happening,'” O’Neill said. “The Parrillis, a lovely family, unfortunately, poked the bear. They are the tipping point.”

At the same time, she said the Parrillis did nothing wrong.

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“They bought that property,” O’Neill said. “They have total rights within city limits and laws to do whatever they like to with that home. I respect that. I am totally overwhelmed and disgusted that we collectively as a community have been asleep at the wheel.”

Mike Cramarosso, who lives behind 292 S. Arlington, said Richard Parrilli told him that he would demolish the house regardless of the council’s decision. Parrilli said he would build two houses if aldermen stopped him from consolidating the lots, Caramarosso said.

Cramarosso also related that Parrilli told others that “young people don’t value these older homes.”

The Parrillis’ lawyer, Francis Bongiovanni, who attended the meeting, told Patch afterward he did not know whether his client made the statements.

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