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Attorney: ‘These buildings are a cancer on your community’

Board looks to target the owners of derelict structures

Sheryl Churney
Hennepin village attorney
Sheryl Churney Hennepin village attorney

HENNEPIN — The owners of derelict properties in Hennepin could soon be facing two options. The first would be to repair and maintain their properties, while the second would be to have the village take ownership and have the structures demolished.

During the March 20 Hennepin Village Board meeting, members discussed the situation with Sheryl Churney, village attorney.

“These buildings are a cancer on your community,” Churney said.

“They lower property values and they tend to spread. This can be a very effective way to deal with them and it sends a message to others,” she told the board.

Churney said other communities have used a “fast-track demolition proceeding” to bring the owners of derelict properties to court if certain criteria are met. Criteria include the buildings being three stories or less and being vacant and open, such as having broken doors or windows that allow access by either people or animals.

If the buildings are deemed “an immediate and continuing danger or nuisance,” legal proceedings can be initiated. All owners with an interest in the property would be contacted through certified mail, notices would appear in the newspaper, and a sign would be placed on the property. If no action is taken within 30 days, ownership could be transferred to the village.

Owners could also be asked to transfer ownership directly to the village to avoid court proceedings. She said demolition costs vary, but typically run between $8,000 to $15,000.

Churney said another option would be to force the owner to demolish their derelict building, but added it could be a long and costly process.

The village would recoup their expenses by selling the property to an owner who would construct a new home. The new owner would then begin paying property taxes on it, and with a more attractive neighborhood, surrounding property values would also be higher.

Board member Quentin Buffington warned against unexpectedly high demolition costs that the village might struggle to recoup.

“This is our responsibility. No one wants to make these decisions, but that’s what we’re here for, and we have to do something,” board member Karyn Christiansen said.

This issue will appear on next month’s meeting agenda.

Streets and engineering

Because of the size and scope of last year’s major street renovation project, Hennepin engineer Bill Shafer advised there be no project this year. He said while the village will be patching and filling cracks in some areas this summer, he believes there isn’t a need for any large-scale work.

Engineer Ken Giordano reported he had heard from the Illinois Department of Natural Resources that all of the requirements for the footbridge to the wetlands had been met and that the permit was being processed.

The next step will be to pay $7,590 to a boring company to analyze the area’s soil.

“This is the next step and is part of the budgeted work. The bridge company can’t proceed with their design work without the soil information,” he said of the project that was first approved in the fall of 2017.

Security cameras

The village has taken delivery of a high-quality security camera. Buffington said the camera’s video feed is being inspected and that it will soon be installed on High Street for further testing.

Other items

• Buffington announced the 303 Band will be the musical act for the village’s annual Thunder on the Illinois Fourth of July celebration.

• The villagewide garage sales are scheduled for April 26-27.

• The next Hennepin Village Board meeting is scheduled for 5:30 p.m. April 17.

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