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DeKalb business owners gather input for inspection ordinance

DeKALB – While the city of DeKalb revises a proposed ordinance for inspecting commercial and industrial businesses, some DeKalb business owners are gathering input on their own ordinance.

On Wednesday, more than 50 local property and business owners attended a town hall meeting hosted by FOCUS DeKalb, an assembly of local business and property owners opposed to sweeping changes proposed by the city of DeKalb.

Group members spent close to two hours discussing an ordinance they drafted that would dictate the rules surrounding the city’s inspection process.

“What we’re forcing the city to do is follow its own rules,” said Will Heinisch, the co-founder of FOCUS DeKalb.

The group’s ordinance is in response to a city ordinance staff proposed in September that would have required all commercial and industrial businesses to undergo annual inspections at their expense. When the ordinance first was proposed, city staff cited a number of unsafe buildings, including the Wurlitzer building, Travel Inn in DeKalb and the downtown building that had housed Otto’s and Ducky’s.

Local business owners blasted the proposal, prompting aldermen to delay a vote. Business owners echoed many of those critical sentiments during Wednesday’s town hall.

“DeKalb is a hindrance,” DeKalb resident and property owner Brian Weydert said. “The city is out to punish local businesses. They’ve got to get out of the way and stop coming up with rules that punish the local businesses.”

Since the Sept. 8 meeting when businesses owners blasted the proposed ordinance, city staff has met with several local business organizations to create an ordinance that addresses the city’s concerns, but with a scope, structure and cost amicable to business owners.

The city is exploring different means of performing inspections, such as using firefighters to perform fire/life safety inspections or contracting with an outside inspection agency.

The goal is to hold a meeting with all the consulted groups Nov. 21, City Manager Anne Marie Gaura told DeKalb City Council members during their meeting Monday. A summary memo would come to council Dec. 8, with a public hearing Jan. 12 and a first reading Jan. 26.

Heinisch said the reason members of FOCUS DeKalb continue to bash the city’s first proposed ordinance despite revisions and a slower timeline is that they don’t believe the second iteration of the proposed ordinance will be much different from the first.

“While it appears different, it’s still the same,” Heinisch said. “It’s still the intent of the original ordinance with a different face.”

To some, such as DeKalb area real estate and corporate attorney Deborah Ullrich, even the FOCUS DeKalb ordinance reached too far.

“You have chosen to present a different ordinance, do you think that there’s a way to go back and say these ordinances on the books can do it and there shouldn’t be any new ordinance?”

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