10/17/2013 4:00:00 PM Patience running out on old hotel as
options are pursued in special session
by DENISE MARTIN
Whichever way the City of Center City moves forward on dealing with what the city terms an “abandoned” building, it’s going to be expensive. That’s what council members heard during a special session October 10. City Attorney Peter Grundhofer explained that the city has set a process in motion for a judge to issue an administrative warrant allowing city officials to enter the private property on Park Island with a deputy.
The lakeshore property started life as a resort hotel and more recently was utilized as a residence for developmentally delayed adults. It was emptied several years ago and is now reportedly under new ownership. Advertised on the Internet the website shows the property listed at $225,000. Council was advised last week the parcel’s market valuation for taxes is estimated at $91,000 and taxes are current. Details were unavailable on the value of the land alone, should taxpayers have to recoup city expenses pursuing demolition through a lien on the land. The description on the Internet says the parcel can be split into two lots but council members questioned that.
Grundhofer said his preference is to work with the local real estate agent for consent to enter the property as the first step. Still, to keep things rolling-- council voted last week that if voluntary access isn’t granted by the Park Island Hotel owner, (within a week was the timeframe agreed to) the district court warrant will be used. Council also agreed to a not-to-exceed expense of $145 an hour to have an engineer report on the structure. Staff was instructed to retain a structural engineer to assess the overall integrity of the building. There was also substantial back-and-forth discussion with Center City Fire Chief Bob Bray about tentative plans to burn the three story building. (Property owners can donate structures for certain public uses like training and receive tax benefits.) Bray covered the complicated logistical issues behind setting up a sanctioned training burn, adding, “It is do-able but it’s not going to be cheap or easy.” Xcel powerlines will need to be relocated, and neighborhood power will be impacted.
Temporary protective “walls” will need to be erected because a couple houses are very close to what would be a high heat zone, he said. Chief Bray felt Highway 8 would need to be “shut down” to make space for staging the trainees. Then there’s debris disposal and site restoration costs. There are sure to be DNR guidelines due to the proximity to South Center Lake. At minimum council also agreed Center City will require of the owner (or proceed at city cost), a test for asbestos, which is $500. Bray said before any burn training or even to bulldoze the building potential for encountering hazardous materials needs to be looked into. Madonna Higgins, council member summed it up, when Lloyd Vetter made the motion, saying, “We have had lots of complaints over the years, we need to go forward.”
Mayor Jill Behnke, whose residence is not far from the old hotel, abstained from voting. IN other special session agenda items: Council also voted 5-0 to post no parking along both sides of First, which connects Main Street to Lake Street on the east edge of the county government center main parking lot. When government center spots are full people improvise and damage the city’s grass and curbing when pulling off the side of First for parking. The Grand Avenue rain garden project was also awarded to Shoreline for about $25,000. There were two quotes to pick from. The project is a Soil and Water Conservation District-funded effort to control stormwater run-off near Lorens Park. A second similar-priced quote from Landscape Directions was okayed as the alternate; if SWCD staff find any issues with materials or tasks in the first quote package. Council heard it will be done as soon as possible, hopefully yet this fall.