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Lake Geneva Chiropractic

Traver Hotel future in limbo?

November 10, 2010 | 09:30 AM
It's not boarded up anymore and the Traver Hotel has undergone some improvements recently, but the old structure remains on the minds of Lake Geneva city officials.

On Monday night, City Attorney Dan Draper told the council members there are several options to look at regarding the future of the large white building, located at 323 Broad Street across from Horticultural Hall.

However, Draper would not go into specifics about what the city could do. He said he would provide the aldermen with the information by the end of the week.

"There are several statutes involved," he said. "Before embarking on a discussion, I would also like to talk to the building inspector."

Draper said there are options if the property is determined to be blighted and there also could be fines if it is determined to be a nuisance property.

"I would rather have an outline for you about what we can and can't do," Draper said.

But, Keith Venturi, the president of 323 Broad Street Property, which owns the building, said he did not know the status of the building would be discussed by the council Monday night. He did not attend the meeting.

Venturi said Tuesday the intention when the building was purchased was to "save the historic piece" and come up with a plan to reopen the building as a hotel.

Because of the economy and what Venturi called a lack of help from the city, nothing has happened with it in the past five to six years the company has owned it.

During the final week of October, the windows and doors of the building were boarded up by the city. According to officials from the Police and Fire departments, the building had become a safety concern. Among the items found in the building were beer cans, a dead raccoon and feces.

According to a memo from City Administrator Dennis Jordan, the property has been vacant for "almost a decade" and there have been "signs recently that unwanted persons have been inside the property." He said the property is "in disrepair" with dead animals found inside and the "toilets are not working, but have been used." Police photos taken before boarding up the building show there also is vandalism, gang graffiti and holes in the walls.

Since then, the boards have been removed and the windows repaired. Venturi said the building should not have been boarded up because the owners were not provided notice. He called it a "violation of property rights" and the city was "not authorized to be on the property." He said the owners were not cited and there are no structural problems with the building.

Venturi also said he has made a complaint to the city's Police Department because of the vandalism and graffiti. He blamed the department for not being able to stop the vandalism and apparent gang activity going on in the building.

Venturi also said he plans to add security lights and has asked city officials to provide alley lights. Venturi said he also intends to put an office for his family's construction company, VP Construction, in the building before next summer.

For some city officials, that may not be enough.

Alderman Don Tolar said Fire Department officials have stated firefighters will not go into the building if it is on fire.

Venturi said he had no knowledge of that statement and questioned why taxes are being paid on the property for public safety if the property is not going to be protected.

Draper said he planned to provide aldermen information about possible options so a discussion could occur about the building at a later date.

"I would like to give you an opinion before you go off on a tangent that may be improper given your guidelines," Draper said.

State Statutes cite when a building can be razed. The statute reads, "If a building is old, dilapidated or out of repair and consequently dangerous, unsafe, unsanitary or otherwise unfit for human habitation and unreasonable to repair, order the owner of the building to raze the building or, if the building can be made safe by reasonable repairs, order the owner to either make the building safe and sanitary or to raze the building, at the owner's option."

Statutes cite more specifics regarding how and why a building can be determined unsanitary or unfit for human habitation. It also states a building can be razed if it is determined a public nuisance. According to the statutes, public nuisance means "a building that, as a result of vandalism or any other reason, has deteriorated or is dilapidated or blighted to the extent that windows, doors or other openings, plumbing or heating fixtures, or facilities of appurtenances of the building are damaged, destroyed or removed so that the building offenses the aesthetic character of the immediate neighborhood and produces blight or deterioration."

Although there was no mention of razing the building Monday night, former alderman Tom Spellman said that's not the way to go, yet.

"It's a difficult building to deal with," Spellman said. "Nothing has been done with it in a long time, but that's not a reason to consider tearing it down. It's a little bit of an eyesore, but it's not terrible."

Spellman suggested the council do nothing right now with the building, but plan ahead.

"It's old, but it has character yet," he said. "Let's set up a committee to take a look at it."

This issue is expected to be on the agenda for the Nov. 22 meeting.

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