Kane County to crack down on car hoarding

In a sliver of unincorporated St. Charles, near the village of Wayne, there's a home owned by a man with a love for antique vehicles. Kane County officials say the homeowner has crossed the line between collecting cars and creating a community eyesore.

“It looks like a junkyard,” county board member John Hoscheit said. “This is a circumstance that I think is overboard.”

Officials did not name the homeowner but said they've visited the property several times in hopes of addressing the situation. However, they lack the tools to do much about it. County laws don't place a limit on the number of vehicles that can be on a property as long as they are in operable condition and parked on an “improved” surface such as a paved or gravel driveway. The cars on the property in question aren't pretty, officials said, but they do start and move forward and backward.

Hoscheit said that's not good enough. He wants to change county law to limit the number of vehicles any home can have outside.

That's dangerous ground to county board member Cathy Hurlbut. She noted many rural homes tend to have more rooms, more people living in a larger space and more cars for them to move around. She doesn't see anything wrong with that. In fact, as an Elgin resident, she's said any changes to the law must reflect only cars that are a true nuisance to the community.

“I live in the city, and I have five cars at my house because I have teenage kids,” Hurlbut said. “There's a difference between being a hoarder and someone who has five or six legitimately running cars.”

County staff member will attempt to craft a law change that addresses Hoscheit's problem while allowing for living situations such as Hurlbut's.

While they're at it, the staff will work on a law change to address the phenomenon of incomplete home construction in the current economy. County permits for that activity expire after two years or when progress on the construction stalls for six months. But now staff are seeing projects take much longer than those expiration dates, including at least one home in unincorporated St. Charles where construction began in 2004 and still isn't complete. Right now, there's not much county staff can do when those construction sites turn into raccoon nests for lack of activity.

“The building process assumes that someone wants to initiate something, build and complete it so they have an asset,” said Mark Van Kerkhoff, a supervisor in the county's development department. “We want them to do the work. We want them to finish it. What it doesn't anticipate is when someone just stops, and that's the condition that we're seeing.”

Van Kerkhoff said, like homes with too many vehicles, abandoned construction sites may soon be added to the list of nuisance violations. That would allow the county a legal remedy to force some action at the problem properties.

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