In the Pest Camp | Letters | Chicago Reader

In the Pest Camp 

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Heather Kenny's June 17 cover story, "Preservationist, or Pest for Short," was compelling; I wanted to read more so I went to Marty Hackl's Web site and found some glaring inconsistencies with his public persona.

The Reader article went on at some length about Van Bergen and the fact that Hackl once owned a Van Bergen historic home. What the article neglected to say, or what Hackl did not volunteer, was that he never gave a historic easement on his home. It is common practice for people concerned with preservation to grant easements to a not-for-profit entity such as LPCI, or in Hackl's case, to the Oak Park-River Forest Historical Society. On Hackl's site he writes about his historic home in anticipation of selling it and says, "Also a great buyer incentive is being offered: Sellers have left the option, and will assist in the transaction, for the buyer, to donate a preservation easement to the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois. Such an easement could be worth up to an estimated $120,000 in federal income tax deductions."

A historic easement would guarantee that the building would stand forever and never be threatened by development. Once an easement is granted, the mortgage is then encumbered, and the value of the property diminishes. The federal income tax deduction should offset the amount the property is diminished by. However, these homes are harder to sell and take a special buyer to see the value of historic preservation. What I find troubling is that Hackl seems to have a sliding scale; on one hand he interprets historic guidelines as dogma and ruthlessly applies them to others, while on the other avoiding any financial encumbrance of his own assets.

Another inconsistency was when he said, "Now I'm the bad guy, picking on those poor old women" in the River Forest club. "I really like them and don't want to hurt them."

However on his Web site Hackl says that he has "tried to overcome the ignorance, the lack of creativity and imagination, the bigotry, the racial intolerance and the chauvinism of many of the Club's members."

Does this sound like a description of people "I really like"? It is cowardly to write mean-spirited, hurtful things on a Web site. I also think it is manipulative when he says, "Now I am the bad guy, picking on those poor old women." Hackl is picking on the elderly in his community, and people should take issue with him.

I was surprised Hackl was so candid about waiting for an old man to die so he could personally profit from buying his home. Hackl is the worst kind of bottom-feeder in the real estate market. So you ask, preservationist or pest? Hackl is neither; he is an opportunistic hack.

I am so happy I live in the city and not out there with those real estate crazy suburbanites.

Brenda Daley

Heather Kenny replies:

Hackl says he decided not to donate an easement, which allows owners to place certain restrictions on property in perpetuity, for two reasons. First, the house is located in Oak Park's Frank Lloyd Wright Historic District, which gives the structure some protections; it can't, for example, be demolished. Second, he suggested an easement as an incentive for a buyer because even though he couldn't get much of a tax benefit from it, a buyer with a higher income could.

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