Council will begin enforcing blight ordinance

Graham Jaehnig/Daily Mining Gazette Discussion between the Calumet Village Council and Leah Polzien of the Downtown Development Authority, at the regular July meeting Tuesday, resulted in the council voting unanimously to move forward with enforcing its blight ordinance, targeting the worst offenders first.

CALUMET — The Village Council voted unanimously to begin immediate enforcement of its blight ordinance at Tuesday’s regular meeting, in response to a letter from Real People Media, owner of the former Family Dollar building on Fifth Street. RPM said it has been placed in a situation that compels its board to require the village to enforce its ordinance, or the board will have to take legal action against. RPM Executive Director Rebecca Glotfelty stated in a letter to the board that currently RPM has no protection of its property in the event an adjacent building, the Ruppe building, caves in, which is predicted to do this winter. The former Family Dollar will become the headquarters for the Red Jacket Jamboree and home of the Keweenaw Folk Life and Story-telling Center.

Trustee Nathan Anderson said the Ruppe building is not the only property of which owners are neglecting to repair or stabilize buildings, and are therefore in violation of the ordinance. Also brought up were complaints of layers of pigeon droppings, along with dead pigeons in abandoned buildings, because the windows were broken out,creating a possible public health hazard.

“We had the same problem with buildings up on Fifth Street,” Anderson said. “We’ve had the same problems with owners not tuck pointing to keep their bricks from falling out.”

Anderson said the problem with the Ruppe building and its owners has been going on for a “very, very long time.” In the eight months the current council has been together, he added, discussions have occurred on the ordinance, but restrictions have resulted from a limited budget.

“We did update the ordinance of demolition by neglect,” Anderson said, “and a process is now in place that has to followed.”

“The process is clearly spelled out in the ordinance, and we’re working towards getting an attorney to back it up, because without an attorney, we’re helpless, and right now, we do not have an attorney to back it up.”

As part of the ordinance update, said Leah Polzien, chairwoman of the Downtown Development Authority, involved retaining an attorney to represent the village in the event of litigation.

“In hiring Kendricks, Bordeau, (Keefe, Seavoy & Larsen), to update those ordinances,” Polzien said, “we also asked that they be ready to represent us if in the case that we impose civil infraction, it moves forward beyond ticketing, if we are not able to resolve whatever the issue may be.”

The DDA, Polzien said, has a fund specifically for litigation, should be necessary, regarding buildings within the business district.

Because of the immediate danger posed by the Ruppe building, and the hazard it presents to the public, the council voted to begin enforcement of the blight ordinance one building owner at a time, starting with the owners of the Ruppe building. The council moved to also place a public announcement of blight enforcement in the Daily Mining Gazette.