CENTERBURG — Frustrated residents of the Centerburg Meadows subdivision in Centerburg came to the village council meeting Tuesday night to seek help from council regarding the current overgrown and neglected condition of some of the lots adjoining their homes.
Bill and Dixie Reed told council there are nine lots in the subdivision and a large grass area surrounding a pond near their homes, which has been left unmowed, where the weeds and grass are currently taller than waist-high.
Dixie said when the lots have been infrequently mowed by subdivision developer Mack Quinlan, a swath of weeds on the perimeter of the property closest to the road is merely run over by the mower and not cut, so the weeds continue to grow — destroying the adjoining roadway in the process.
“The problem with the weeds growing to the roads is that will cause breakage in the future,” Bob explained.
Village Solicitor Kyle Stroh said enforcing a village ordinance which requires vacant lots in the village to be kept mowed, is tricky because it would not be fair to hold property owners to different standards.
“I would compare it to speeding,” Stroh explained, adding that police officers must choose which areas they invest the heaviest enforcement efforts, based on benefits and risks. Stroh said even though there are fewer speeders in school zones, it makes sense to put officers outside a school where the speed limit is only 20, because safety is much improved by cars slowing down.
“Where are we going to put our resources,” Stroh asked council to consider regarding the mowing issue. “We only have a limited number or resources.”
“Can you elect to enforce the rules, or are the rules there for a reason,” Bob Reed asked Stroh.
Village Administrator Phil Lohmeyer said the village has a difficult time recouping any of the cost when it mows vacant lots neglected by the owners, because a lengthy process must be followed before the village can collect the mowing cost.
Lohmeyer said different options had been discussed at an earlier meeting of the Services Committee to try and find a solution to the problem which is growing as more lots become vacant due to foreclosure in a challenged economy.
“Even if they would just mow a 10-foot strip around the yard of the adjoining home, people would be very appreciative and it would keep the weeds and ticks down,” said Lohmeyer.
Dixie told council that Quinlan had mowed part of the subdivision earlier in the day. Lohmeyer said he had also seen Quinlan mowing, but he not yet had a chance to see the results. The Reeds told council they should go out to Centerburg Meadows to see the poor condition of the vacant lots for themselves.
Councilman Dave Beck recommended exploring the issue further.
“I think we somehow need to establish a mowing policy — a long term policy,” Beck said.
“I think we need to develop a policy that applies to any vacant lot,” Lohmeyer said.
Beck told Lohmeyer he would like for him to put together a policy that council could consider.
Some members of council asked Stroh if he knew the current status of the Centerburg Meadows subdivision, as some members believed Quinlan had filed for bankruptcy, and the properties were now held by a bank. Stroh said he believed Quinlan still owned the property for the time-being, but that the land was in receivership, and under the management of a bank.
In other business Village Engineer Chuck Coughlan presented council with two options for financing the new water reclamation facility. From which, council optioned to apply for state Issue 1 funds for the construction of a water reclamation facility and the associated infrastructure. Council agreed to wave the three readings and passed an ordinance authorizing the village to make application as an emergency.
The ordinance goes on to say that if said funding is not approved, in whole or in part, then an application for a zero interest rate loan for the project of up to 12.42 percent of the total $500,000 cost may also be sought.
“The grant money is what we really are looking for,” said Coughlan.
Council voted to approve the parade permit for the September 29 Homecoming Parade at 6:30.
After some debate, and a motion which died on the floor to keep Beggars’ Night on the traditional date of October 31, council members approved holding Centerburg’s Beggars’ Night instead on Saturday, October 30, from 5:30 until 7 p.m.
Stroh advised council to waive three readings and pass as an emergency a resolution authorizing the village administrator and village engineer to work together to prepare documents seeking a bid for the repaving of Cleveland Avenue between Clayton and Garden streets.
Lohmeyer said the old concrete must be removed, the curbs repaired and replaced, and blacktop added.
Mayor George Shaw asked why Stroh proposed the ordinance as an emergency. Stroh said sending the project out for bid, receiving the bids back and considering them, and making a final decision about whether or not to go forward with the project, would all take considerable time, and the project, if approved, would have to be done before bad weather. Consequently, the project would have to be started soon and the bids could not wait for three more council meetings for readings of the ordinance.
The ordinance was approved by council, with an amendment added by Beck to authorize the village to apply for county permissive funds for the project.
Council adjourned into Executive Session at the Stroh’s request to discuss a possible real estate transaction. No action was taken, and council adjourned directly from Executive Session.