City Council voted on Jan. 13 to refund $2,400 in vacant building fines paid by Parc Investment Property LLC for fines levied against the property at 1890 Maple Ave. The move overrode a decision by City Manager Wally Bobkiewicz to issue a credit against future building-permit fees instead.
The project at Emerson Street and Maple Avenue is expected to generate more than $1.25 million in building permit fees, about $104,000 of which have been paid to date, but it is unclear which entity will be paying those fees. Bob King, a member of Parc Properties, LLC and president of Carroll Properties Inc., said Parc paid the fine when it transferred the property to 1890 Maple, LLC in July 2013.
The fine was the result of a citation issued by the City in April 2009, about the same time that City Council agreed to change the name on a Planned Development for the property from Carroll Properties, Inc. to Parc Investment Property, LLC, an entity that Mr. King said had been formed for the Emerson Street project.
Council questioned how and why the City would issue a vacant building citation and fine to a building that was the subject of a planned development. “You’ve got a building that has a totally different status than a vacant building,” said Alderman Ann Rainey, 8th Ward. The vacant building ordinance requires an owner to put a “for rent” or “for sale” sign in the window in order to avoid a fine, something that makes no sense when the property is slated for approved redevelopment, she said.
The vacant building ordinance requires registration of unoccupied buildings unless they are “undergoing construction, renovation or rehabilitation in compliance with ordinances” or have the “for sale” or “for rent” signs. Planned developments not yet under construction do not perfectly fit into an exception, though the intent of the ordinance is to prevent buildings from sitting vacant year after year.
In a memo, Mr. Bobkiewicz said the City would be “instituting a formal compliance process to ensure all Planned Development [PD] public benefits conform to the approved PD ordinance” by creating and maintaining a PD database.
After issuing the 1890 Maple fine, the City made no effort between 2009 and 2013 to collect the money, according to a Jan. 8, 2014, memo from Mr. Bobkiewicz to Mayor Elizabeth Tisdahl and the members of the Administration and Public Works Committee. The notices sent in 2009 went to the correct street address, 20 N. Wacker in Chicago, but did not include a suite number. The 20 N. Wacker building is the Civic Opera house, a 45-story tower with more than a million square feet of office space, according to Chicago architecture website. Mr. King said that he never received the notice.
The issue has prompted the City and Council to revisit its vacant-building policy and may result in changes to the ordinance. A staff memo indicates that there are 153 registered vacant buildings in Evanston, four of which are commercial and the rest residential.