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Peoria to purchase and remove accident-prone home on Loucks

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Traffic crash report

An uninvited guest at home can be stressful, but not as stressful as a car knocking down the door.

In near unanimous agreement, the Peoria City Council voted Tuesday to buy the house located at 1203 W. Loucks Ave. and remove it. The decision came after public works found the guarantee of the occupant’s safety at odds with motorist liability.

The Director of Public Works Rick Powers summarized the history of multiple car collisions with the property. The cheapest solution to avoid further tire marks on walls is the removal of the house entirely.

“Looking at the options we had in order to keep a vehicle from leaving the roadway and going into the house we would be creating a barrier amount to a brick wall that would put the motorist in danger or peril,” Director Powers stated. “After looking at the costs of what improvements we were looking at…doing what we can do and looking at the cost of the home versus those costs…we thought this was the best approach to take.”

City Manager Patrick Urich notes the property with an appraisal at market value, amounts to $131,000 including the closing costs, which is $10,000.

Councilman Zach Oyler (At-Large), the sole no vote on the agreement, asked if the city action of buying private property was unprecedented for the stated safety reasons.

Urich states six years ago a property at the corner of Allen and Alta was removed due to construction of a roundabout.

“In this instance, I think we’re looking at this as saying this is due to a safety issue that is occurring based upon the infrastructure that’s been constructed,” Urich said. “The way the motoring public is leaving Loucks (Ave.) and getting on Forest Hill…(is) creating a dangerous situation.”

Councilman Chuck Grayeb, 2nd district, says the entire situation is odd, but the risk is clear after reading two separate vehicle accident reports.

“This senior citizen is not safe in this house,” Grayeb said. “I believe that…I’m just flabbergasted… to me it doesn’t seem to be that dangerous of an area, but here we have all the reports.”

The councilman hopes a decision like this doesn’t come for another fifty years, but agrees with city staff on the purchase. He notes the owner likes Peoria and is currently searching for a new home. The agreement passed 9-1.

In a first reading, Director of Community Development Joe Dulin hopes an ordinance change and the current housing market will clear a number of boarded properties in Peoria.

“If you want to continue to have boarded up properties and own them and sit on them…we want to put some tools in place to move you along faster and bring the property up to compliance,” Dulin said.

Councilman Grayeb and Dulin drove around the 2nd district finding an estimated 60-75 boarded properties, where 60% of owners still paid the property taxes. Currently, owners have 180 days to clear the boards and maintain the house, but could extend the process to an additional 180. The new ordinance would slice it in half to 90.

“A boarded up property in a neighborhood not only provides a blight to the entire neighborhood it’s in…it decreases property values; a target for arson… it’s not the look neighborhoods want.”

Dulin says the city employs five code enforcement officers who deal with housing. Previous versions of the ordinance include $100 fines once their window of opportunity ends; Yet the lack of resources over the years have led citations to go unanswered.

“I think with the efficiency we’ve been able to achieve in the last two years …it’s hard to hold people accountable when we’re not accountable for ourselves,” Dulin said. “When we owned property that (was) boarded up because we didn’t have the money to demo them, we didn’t enforce it as well as we should have. By tightening that window to 90 days our staff can stay on top of it quicker.”

Dulin hopes the change doesn’t lead to fines, but a push to create growth in Peoria’s vacant structural shelters.

The ordinance amendment will come back to the table at a later date.

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