DeKalb Takes Proactive Enforcement Action on Property Code Violations in Annie Glidden North Neighborhood

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360 Citations Issued; Search Warrants Executed and Petition for Demolition Filed

The City of DeKalb announced today that it is proactively pursuing targeted code
enforcement cases directed at properties that have been identified as having significant
numbers of life-safety violations that threaten harm to residents of the City of DeKalb.
Two specific court actions have been initiated to further this effort.

First, the City has identified a significant number of code violations at properties owned
or operated by subsidiaries of Hunter Properties, which is owned by Sam Okner. The
City’s code enforcement efforts with Hunter Properties go back to March of this year when
the City obtained a search warrant to inspect the entirety of the Hillcrest Shopping Center
which is owned by a Hunter subsidiary. At that time, the City discovered fire exits that
were locked shut, broken floor joists and structural deterioration, significant fire and safety
hazards, deteriorated exterior walls, mold and water infiltration and a myriad of other code
violations. The City’s first approach to major code issues is always to seek a collaborative
resolution focused on compliance, and the City thus entered into a voluntary remediation
agreement with the owner. However, the owner has failed to complete repairs within the
timeline specified in the agreement, and thus the City has elected to proceed forward with
code enforcement actions.

The concern regarding the conditions at Hillcrest Shopping Center is reinforced by
concerns over the conditions at the Hunter Tri-Frat property across the street, and also
by concerns over the Hunter properties located at 511 Normal Road. In inspections of
each of those properties, the City has identified a significant number of violations, and
despite the City’s efforts to be collaborative, the owner has failed to remediate those
violations in a reasonable time. The City has thus reviewed its inspection reports going
back to the beginning of the year, and at those three properties alone, 360 separate
citations have been issued based upon clearly observed code violations.

Code enforcement efforts of the City are based, in part, on the need to improve conditions
in the community to avoid the adverse impact that dilapidated properties have on crime.
With regard to just the three Hunter properties referenced, in the past 2 months, there
have been three separate incidents of gun violence that have occurred on-premises.
Perhaps of greater concern is that each of the incidents of gun violence (or the moments
leading up to or immediately following the gun violence) were in areas that would have
been under video surveillance based upon the cameras installed at the properties.
However, for reasons unknown to the City, Hunter Properties has not maintained the
existing camera systems as operational. This means that video footage which could have
been instrumental in identifying and prosecuting violent criminals engaged in serious acts
of violence is not available. The City notes that video cameras are not legally required to
be installed or operational, but the non-functional cameras are emblematic of other
failures to maintain the properties as evidenced by the number and severity of code
violations identified.

The City also recently executed a search warrant at 1015 Blackhawk Drive, the location
of the former Campus Cinemas. The City became aware that the building suffered a
partial roof collapse, and when the owner refused consent for the City to enter the
building, a search warrant was obtained. Upon entry, the City discovered severe and
pervasive water damage and mold throughout the building, and evidence of significant
roof and structural deterioration caused by the water damage. This structural
deterioration caused the partial collapse of the roof at the southern end of the building,
which jeopardizes the integrity of the building’s walls. A notice to remediate the structure
has been sent to the building owner. As the owner has not submitted proper
documentation to obtain a building permit and commence any repair work, the City has
now filed a lawsuit which seeks a Court Order for condemnation and demolition of this
unsafe structure.

Mayor Jerry Smith of the City of DeKalb said, “the City wishes to make clear that we
support those responsible property owners who maintain their investment in this City as
safe and comfortable locations for our residents and students. However, the City will use
every legal resource available to address properties that deteriorate or which become
unsafe.” City Manager Anne Marie Gaura indicated, “our code enforcement efforts will
be focused on those properties which present the greatest risk to public safety and
welfare. The City has worked diligently to encourage property owners to maintain their
properties responsibly, and when those efforts fail, the City has no choice but to take legal
action.” Police Chief Gene Lowery indicated, “the presence of security cameras at multi-
unit residential and commercial properties is a key resource in combatting violent crime

in our community. When properties are not maintained to an acceptable standard, they
become inviting targets for crime. The Police Department will work with all City
departments to support the efforts to enforce City codes and ordinances and ensure a
safe environment, as one of the many approaches we are undertaking to keep this City
safe.” Community Development Director Jo Ellen Charlton indicated, “the City will
continue to ensure that properties are maintained and safe. If owners seek to work with
the City, we will use every resource available to collaborate and support reinvestment
and maintenance. If owners do not choose to maintain their properties, then the code
enforcement abilities of the City will be brought to bear on any properties that are unsafe for our residents and students.”

Photographs of the interior of 1015 Blackhawk appear below. Click on an image for a larger view:

 

23 COMMENTS

  1. I’m surprised. I’m wondering why the City of DeKalb just hasn’t purchased these properties like they did 917 Edgebrook. Seems like all of the same criteria given for the purchase of the Bragg property are exactly the same for these properties. Why one and not the others?