Aldermen hold funding for demolition of Maple Ave. building

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Daily file photo by Noah Fricks-Alofs

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th). Wilson expressed concern about the city’s spending of funds to demolish a property at 2012 Maple Avenue

Julia Richardson, Reporter

City council considered approving $40,300 in funding for the demolition of a vacant, structurally unsafe building on Tuesday night.

Several property maintenance violations pertaining to the property, located at 2012 Maple Ave., have been identified. The building appears to be leaning to one side, and its foundation is reported to be sunken in and deteriorated.

According to interim city manager Erika Storlie, the funds come from the state, not the city, and are set aside specifically for tearing down properties deemed unsafe. If the city decides not to use the funds, the money will be forfeited to the state.

Ald. Donald Wilson (4th) said it was unclear why the city would demolish private property when the owner did not make the request.

“I’m sure this isn’t the only distressed building, so I’d rather see us take a more thoughtful approach on what we’re going to be paying for,” he said.

The property on Maple Avenue was sold in October 2019 for $92,000, and sold to another buyer just a few months later for $145,000, Wilson said. He added the owner likely intends to renovate the property or tear down the building himself.

“If he’s gonna tear it down anyway, why would we pay for it?” he asked. “It just seems to me that (the money) would be better spent on the demolition work that the person can’t afford to pay for…I understand the purpose of the program…It just doesn’t seem right.”

Wilson said paying for the demolition would only enhance the owner’s property value, and that he would rather see properties go through more thorough vetting to determine whether funds are used.

“Yes, it is a benefit to the owner, but we also see it as a benefit to the city, as we are eliminating blight,” said Gary Gerdes, the division manager for Evanston’s building and inspection services. “It’s not a program that somebody applies for; these are structures that the city has identified as structurally unsafe.”

Gerdes said maintenance violations had not been addressed after the property was sold. Initial conversation about the funding started at an administrative hearing, and the owner had attended a hearing regarding property standards.

Ald. Ann Rainey (8th) also expressed concerns about the property having an exemption on it, even though it has been vacant for at least five years.

“There’s something very fishy about this,” Rainey said. “You don’t get an exemption on a vacant property.”

Gerdes said that the funds for this year had to be used by May 31, and $13,000 still remained, which could have partially paid for the demolition of the Maple Avenue property. Aldermen agreed to hold approving the funds, which effectively forfeits the money to the state.

“We will carry over and use the next year’s funds,” Gerdes said.

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