Thursday, April 19, 2018 || By Michael Romain || @maywoodnews
Featured image: The multiunit building on 5th Ave. and Quincy in Maywood that village board members unanimously deemed a public nuisance. | Google Earth
A multiunit apartment building at the corner of 5th Ave. and Quincy St. in Maywood is in the crosshairs of village officials who have deemed it a “chronic public nuisance.”
During a regular board meeting on April 17, Mayor Edwenna Perkins said that the village should “take the building over, maintain it ourselves, evict the problems and clean up that corner.”
The building includes 21 apartments and four first-floor commercial storefronts. According to Cook County property records, California-based Belgium Investments 1416 Maywood LLC had an ownership stake in the building in 2015.
So far, it isn’t known if that entity still owns the property. Attempts to contact Belgium Investments were unsuccessful.
In an April 11 memo, village attorneys Michael Jurusik and Carmen P. Forte, Jr., of Klein, Thorpe & Jenkins, stated that they believe that the property “warrants the initiation of an action by the Police Chief under the Chronic Public Nuisance Ordinance.”
The attorneys said that there have been multiple criminal incidents at the property within the last two years, including drug-related offenses, assault/battery offenses, disorderly conduct and loitering.
At the April 17 meeting, the Maywood Board of Trustees voted unanimously to declare the property a public nuisance and for village staff to take all the steps necessary to make the building a crime-free zone.
“We’ve been watching this building for five years,” said Perkins, adding that during that time the problems have accumulated.
Maywood Trustee Melvin Lightford said that the criminal activity at the building was such a problem for a dental office, Maywood Family Dental — located just across the street from the property — that the owner of the dental establishment had to hire “an off-duty policeman” to keep watch before ultimately shutting the office down.
“He got so nervous he had to move,” Lightford said.
Over the years, a series of incidents have been reported at the multiunit property. In 2014, three people were injured after a masked gunman walked into Pumpkin’s Place, a restaurant on the first floor of the building, and started shooting.
The next year, police officers discovered 47-year-old Bobby Mcclinic, of Rockford, shot multiple times inside of Pumpkin’s Place.
And in 2016, law enforcement officials raided an apartment in the building, seizing undisclosed amounts of heroin and cocaine.
At the time of the raid, Maywood Police Chief Valdimir Talley said that Pumpkin’s “gets a bad reputation because of the location.”
The board’s decision to declare the property a “public nuisance” sets in motion a series of steps that Maywood police and staff will initiate that could lead to the scenario Perkins described at Tuesday’s meeting.
After the police chief sends a written notice of the designation to the local property manager who, according to Jurusik, is responsible for addressing complaints about the building, the owner or manager has 10 days to “propose a course of action to the village that will ensure that no further criminal activity will take place at the property.”
If the owner doesn’t respond, or if the response is inadequate, the village can initiate court proceedings against the owner or manager. If the village can prove in court that the building is a public nuisance, the court “has a wide variety of remedies available to it under the” village’s ordinance, KTJ’s memo states.
Those remedies include requiring the owner to install security lighting or hire security personnel, appointing a receiver to manage the property, requiring the owner to evict tenants who engage in illegal activities and “entering a temporary restraining order or preliminary injunction” that could seriously limit the owner’s use of the property, among other actions.
According to their memo, Jurusik and Forte Jr. recommend that the police department meet with representatives of the building ownership to stress “the severity of this situation” and the village’s “commitment to have the property operate as a crime-free zone.”
The attorneys recommended that the village’s code enforcement department provide a complete list of the property’s code violations.
The attorneys stated that they’ve learned that the building owner “may not have in place current rental licensing for the residential units,” which is required by village code. If the owner obtains that licensing and code inspects each residential unit, then the village could “determine the extent of any” code violations at the property.
Back in 2015, the attorneys noted, Chief Talley deemed the property a public nuisance “due to several criminal incidents.”
At the time, the owner “responded positively and took action to evict problem tenants and address other issues that were causing criminal activity at the property,” according to KTJ’s memo.
“While we do not have the same guarantee presently, we acknowledge that such cooperation could make the current process more streamlined and reduce village costs overall by limiting the potential for litigation,” the attorneys stated.
The attorneys added that, in light of those “previous efforts to remedy the criminal activities at the property, which appear to have not entirely solved this matter,” they recommend that the owner not wait to implement certain court-ordered actions.
Those actions include evicting tenants who are engaged in criminal activities, hiring permanent security and prohibiting certain people other than tenants to be on the building’s premises.
If the owner refuses, or fails, to take those preventative measures, the attorneys stated, then the the village could initiate Circuit Court proceedings that might lead to a court-appointed receiver taking over the management of the building to ensure that it is crime-free.
Some board members said that they would prefer the village be appointed receiver, since attempts to resolve the crime issue with the property’s owner have appeared to be futile.
“That corner needs to be cleaned up, but the only way it’s going to get cleaned up is by the village,” Perkins said.
Trustee Isiah Brandon said that “we’ve been through those steps before” and that the village needs to “send the message that Maywood will not have this, especially not in our downtown corridor.” VFP
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