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La Salle Building Codes Committee on Tuesday discussed a proposed amendment to the city’s vacant building ordinance.
“We’ve been working on this for over a year to get it down to acceptable,” Alderman Jerry Reynolds said.
The amended ordinance would give the city authority to take more punitive action, if necessary, against owners of property that do not meet standards.
“We’re trying to put enough teeth into these ordinances to allow (building inspector) Chris (Covert) to do his job,” Reynolds said.
For example, the ordinance currently requires owners of vacant buildings to register their buildings and pay a registration fee of $96 per year. The amended ordinance would require owners of vacant buildings to pay an initial registration fee of $300 for a building of fewer than 20,000 square feet and $600 for a building of more than 20,000 square feet. These fees would be valid for only three months, after which subsequent fees of $500 for a building of fewer than 20,000 square feet and $1,000 for a building of more than 20,000 square feet would be required for every subsequent three-month period that the building does not meet standards.
The measures are meant to be constructive, officials say.
“We’d rather have you be spending your money fixing the property up than spending it on registration fees,” city attorney James McPhedran said.
Covert emphasized property owners would receive multiple warnings before more serious steps were taken, calling the process “a progression of corrective action.”
Sixth Street resident Cathy Tomlinson expressed strong support for the city’s action against buildings in poor condition.
“The city has come a long way in the last two years,” she said. “If we can get the city of La Salle cleaned up, we can get rid of the riff-raff.” Tomlinson explained she was referring to “people moving in from Chicago, selling drugs.”
Mayor Jeff Grove said the amended ordinance was not about trying to push anyone out of the city, though he did say he would like to see a greater ratio of home owners to renters. He said his concerns were mainly with landlords who didn’t keep up their property — not the renters themselves.
“We want the buildings to be safe to live in,” Grove said. “We want responsible home owners and land owners.”
Tomlinson said there was more work to be done.
“Our property values are down because of these dilapidated buildings,” she said. “This ordinance is going to clean up this city.”
Rachel Stella can be reached at (815) 220-6933 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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