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Article posted: 10/19/2013 8:00 AM

Lindenhurst code violations could be sent to hearing officer

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Building code violators in Lindenhurst could find themselves at an office building in Libertyville rather than a courtroom to resolve their issue.

Village leaders this past week approved an agreement with Lake County for adjudication hearings as a means to decide what are considered routine but sometimes lengthy cases involving basic code violations.

"We're just basically sharing their resources. It's a civil process rather than a criminal process," Police Chief Kevin Klahs said.

Those accused of code violations, such as inoperable or improperly stored vehicles or various property maintenance issues, traditionally have been given a notice to appear and the matters end up in traffic court, Klahs said.

Under the proposed arrangement, which needs to be approved by the Lake County Board, violators will report to the Lake County Central Permit facility at 500 W. Winchester Road for an adjudication hearing.

"It's a much better venue than circuit court," Klahs said, as violators would have ample time to make their cases in a more informal setting.

"Most people want to comply (but) there's some barrier keeping them from compliance," he said.

The agreement calls for Lindenhurst to pay a flat rate of $80 per case, with the county handling the billing, Klahs said. The move is expected to save staff time as one representative from the village can be a witness for all of the village cases. That person does not have to be a sworn police officer, Klahs added, and the village attorney would not be required to attend.

County building inspectors, hired by the village, or community service officers could write violations and either could represent the village at adjudication hearings.

But only a few complaints a month are expected.

"What a lot of towns have done around us is create their own adjudication hearings," according to Klahs. "We don't have a large volume. We're very small; that's why we didn't create our own."

Antioch, for example, has had its own adjudication court since July 2010. Libertyville also established the process at that time to deal with red-light camera tickets and other code violations.

Earlier this year, Grayslake joined Libertyville's monthly hearing program.

Lindenhurst would be the first municipality to join the county's program, which was approved in September 2011. The first hearing was in May 2012.

Hearings are once a month and have two calls before attorney David Eterno: one for animal care and control issues and another for nuisance violations, such as tall grass, according to Matt Meyers, who oversees the program for the county.

Meyers said about 50 to 80 cases are heard each month.

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