Blight panel recommends enforcement

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette The Calumet Village Council hears from DDA Chairwoman Leah Polzien at the council’s May 15 meeting on the DDA’s proposal to move forward with enforcing the village’s blight and building ordinances.

CALUMET — Leah Polzien, chairwoman of the Calumet Village Downtown Development Authority, wants the Village Council to hire the law firm of Kendricks, Bordeau, Keefe, Seavoy and Larson, referred to as Kendricks, to assist the DDA in enforcing blight and dangerous building ordinances, she said in addressing the council recently.

An ad hoc blight enforcement committee has been working on formulating a system of enforcement. The committee is made of Polzien, Village Trustee Virginia Dwyer, Jeff Ratcliffe of the Keweenaw Economic Development Alliance (KEDA) and Scott MacInnes.

Polzien said the committee has already met with a municipal law firm, which is reviewing current village ordinances to ensure they are in line with state statutes and that they are up to date, enforceable and legal.

The firm will then create a series of protocols that can be used to enforce the ordinances, she said.

“The DDA and the Keweenaw National Historical Park’s Advisory Commission have allotted funding to pay that attorney for that work,” said Polzien, “and there will be some allotted for litigation fees, should any blight enforcement in the downtown district, the downtown development area, result in litigation.”

Polzien said the law firm recently worked with the city of Houghton to update its dangerous buildings ordinances.

“So, it’s very fresh for them, which is good for us,” said Polzien, “because just sitting down with them very briefly, you get the sense that they are very up-to-date, and the information is very fresh in their minds. It’s not something they have to go digging for.”

Polzien said that while the DDA can pay the fees of the law firm, it is important that council retains their services.

“If the council intends to move through with this blight enforcement,” she said, “the council does essentially need to hire the attorney, so that if you are ever in a case of litigation, you are represented, and you have that representation ready to go.”

Polzien also asked the council to consider passing a resolution informing village property owners that “Calumet is serious about passing its blight ordinances.”

She said that was recommended by one of the attorneys as a means of promoting good public relations within the community, while at the same time letting residents know the ordinances will be enforced.

“That would be the purpose of you folks passing this resolution,” said Polzien. “So I ask those two things of you.”