DeKALB – The city is seeking a court order to have the former Otto’s Nightclub building repaired or demolished because it is an “imminent threat to public health, safety and welfare,” according to a new lawsuit.
The building at the corner of Lincoln Highway and First Street has been closed since heat failure caused a pipe to burst in 2014 and the city declared it uninhabitable.
Owner Pat Looney cut off communication with city officials regarding plans to fix structural and sanitation issues, including deteriorated walls, roof and drainage system and the presence of mold and asbestos, according to the complaint filed Tuesday.
A phone number for Looney could not be located Wednesday.
Mayor John Rey said the city will not demolish the building if Looney agrees to make the necessary repairs.
“It is my understanding that the owner is nonresponsive with requests to bring it up to code,” the mayor said.
Rey said that if the court grants the city request and Looney doesn’t take responsibility, the building would likely be demolished because of how it has been affecting nearby structures.
“I hope the building is dealt with one way or another,” Rey said.
The lawsuit said that the property’s decline has caused problems in surrounding buildings, such as water leaks, and it has gotten to a point that “it is no longer possible to tolerate Looney’s complete failure to maintain his property.”
It also said the property is “an aesthetic blight upon the city” in addition to being a danger to public health.
The value of the underlying site is $200,000, while the cost to demolish would be near $410,000, according to an appraiser’s report submitted to the city of DeKalb in November 2015.
National Bank & Trust Co., which has since been acquired by First Midwest Bank, filed a lawsuit against Looney in May for failing to maintain the property. A judge ordered Looney to pay the bank almost $470,000 in that case. City Attorney Dean Frieders said that once those named in it are served with the lawsuit, they will be able to file a response and potentially dispute the city’s claims.
“It would be challenging to see them refute that in good faith, given the condition of the building,” he said.
Frieders said the city had exhausted all other options before filing the petition, which offers several options to restore the property to a safe condition.
“They are hopeful for a positive action,” he said. “The city didn’t have any option but to file this petition.”
In the lawsuit, the city said it wants a judge to order Looney to either repair the building, tear it down or give the city permission to demolish the building if Looney won’t comply.
“If the owner acknowledges responsibility and renders the building safe, that would be the best outcome,” Frieders said. “If not, the city intends to bring forth a significant amount of evidence.”
The case is next due in court Jan. 6.