Crown Point takes step to get unsafe buildings fixed
By Carrie Napoleon Post-Tribune correspondent April 12, 2013 11:06AM
Updated: May 16, 2013 6:07AM
CROWN POINT — Officials now have the judicial teeth they need to begin any necessary action against the owners of unsafe buildings within the city.
Wednesday the Board of Public Works and Safety appointed Lake County Superior Court County Division III Judge Julie Cantrell to serve as the judicial hearing officer for the unsafe building committee.
Attorney Joseph Irak said Cantrell has served in the capacity as hearing officer for the city when needed. Making the deal formal will speed up the process of pursuing action against unsafe properties and allow code enforcement officials the opportunity to go after property owners whose buildings present a hazard to the community.
While a necessary tool, the need is not commonplace.
“This is not anything we use routinely,” Irak said. Cantrell will be donating her time to the city if a hearing were to become necessary.
Irak said there is currently one parcel in the city that was fire damaged that officials would like to act upon. The process to condemn a building is tightly regulated by statute and involves notification administration action will be taken and a chance to comply with that action.
The goal, he said, is to get compliance without moving forward with condemnation. In the past when issues have arisen, often notification alone was enough to prompt the property owner to work with the city to bring the parcel into compliance. Without a way to adjudicate violations, offenders may be less likely to comply. Cantrell’s appointment creates that opportunity.
“The city is not in the business of trying to tear down people’s homes,” Irak said, adding the ability to pursue action is a tool the city does use when necessary.
Mayor David Uran said appointing Cantrell hearing officer builds on the discussion started at the last city council meeting.
Officials then expressed concern about a number of commercial buildings in the city that appear to be in varying states of disrepair.
Council members are working on an ordinance that would allow for routine inspection of any vacant building disconnected from public services. Crown Point Fire Rescue already has flagged a number of vacant buildings in the city as “defensive only,” meaning lives will not be risked to put out the fire, but firefighters will work to contain any potential blaze and protect adjacent property owners.