City of Rockford files lawsuit for Essex Wire clean up

ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- The city of Rockford is looking to clean up a crumbling building in an effort to reduce blight and create a new space for other projects. The city is now taking legal action to speed up that process.

In 2016 the city voted to turn the old Essex Wire plant on North Main Street into a space for housing units, offices and restaurants. That development fell through and the demolition of the plant was stopped leaving an eyesore. The city is now suing the property owners with the hopes of making a clean slate for new development.

“When there's resistance and irresponsible property owners, this is the mechanism we have,” said Assistant City Attorney Matthew Flores.

The city of Rockford is suing the old Essex wire plant building property owners AW Bennett Enterprises Inc. Since its partial demolition the plant has several code infractions. This year the city issued several violations for them.

"They agreed to pay a fine for their violations in the amount of $50,000 as well as they agreed to bring the property into compliance with codes and ordinances within 30 days,” said Attorney Flores.

The Oregon based property owners paid that fine but didn't make any progress in cleaning up the site giving the city no choice but to file a demolition lawsuit.

"It’s very important when we have the opportunity to hold a property owner's feet to the fire when they're being negligent and irresponsible,” said Attorney Flores.

The city wants to speed up the process of cleaning up the space in order to prepare for new development in an area undergoing revitalization.

“It's a highly attractive site, 15-acre site, right along a $30 million roadway improvement. Everyone's interested in removing the blight. Once that's removed then we prime that site for a development that can happen,” said director of community and economic development Karl Franzen.

The first court hearing is set for September 6th but city officials hope to reach an agreement with the property owners before then.

"There is nothing stopping the owner of that property right now from opening their check books and cleaning up that site. They don’t need a court order to do it,” said Attorney Flores.

The city's complaint for code violations seeks a fine of up to $750 per day. The city says it plans to reach out to the property owners again with hopes of reaching an agreement. The estimated cost to clean up the Essex site would be more than a quarter million dollars.

As part of the suit, if the property owners fail to clean up the site the city will do it and send AW Bennett Enterprises a bill. 23 News reached out to the corporation's attorney. We have not heard back.

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) -- Following code enforcement proceedings filed earlier this year, the city of Rockford moves forward with a lawsuit against the owner of the Essex Wire plant property on N. Main Street.

Under Illinois' demolition, repair, enclosure or remediation statue, the city filed the lawsuit against A-W-Bennett Enterprises Inc. The city's complaint calls for the owner to clean up the site, or the city would be able to clean up the site, forcing the owners to pay for the work.

On May 7, 2018 city officials met with attorneys from A-W-Bennett Enterprises Inc. to discuss the condition of the plant and sanctions for the upkeep of the property. Representatives for the owners agreed on a $50,000 fine and promised the area would be clean within 30 days.

Three days later, the city sent a notice to the property owner's attorney that it would get a court order demanding the clean up if the owners failed to do so within the 30-day period.

Since May 10, 2018, city officials say they were told by the property owner's attorneys they were still making arrangements to have the site cleaned or were looking to sell the property.