A Cook County judge Friday gave Schaumburg officials a court order to clean up the cluttered property of a man living in his own driveway.
Looking at photos taken only an hour earlier, Associate Judge Hyman Riebman decided that 62-year-old John Wuerffel had not made sufficient progress in cleaning up the outside and inside of his home on the 1400 block of Hampton Lane since his warning last week.
"In essence, Mr. Wuerffel, this is a case of too little, too late," Riebman said. "I appreciate the efforts you've made in the last couple days to clear this property up, but it isn't enough."
Riebman added that he believed the village's own ordinances gave it the authority to do such a cleanup without a court order, expressing praise for officials' patience and attention on due diligence.
What wasn't made clear, however, was exactly how long the village will give Wuerffel before it begins removing items from his property - which would include three vehicles, if he doesn't get them licensed and operable.
The Schaumburg Police Department's social services division has bought Wuerffel two months' use of a 20-foot by 10-foot storage space where he hopes to move the more valuable recyclable items he collects for sale before the court order is executed. He believes he can sell off the items before the two months are up.
Wuerffel promised he could get his vehicles operational by 11 a.m. Tuesday, but asked for direction on how much of the amassed outdoor furniture and other yard equipment the village wants removed from his backyard.
"Be reasonable," Assistant Village Attorney Elmer Mannina advised. "Why don't you think about your neighbors? You be reasonable and I'll be reasonable with you."
Wuerffel can't live inside the house because of both its accumulation of recyclable items and the shutoff of its utilities.
A jury found Wuerffel guilty in early September of violating village ordinances requiring the inside and outside of homes to be kept clean and free of rubbish.
Wuerffel has lived in the house since 1971. He said he has been out of work for more than six years and makes $1,000 a month by redeeming recyclable items for money in Michigan.
"I would say he's turned his home into a recycling warehouse," Schaumburg Public Health Officer Mary Passaglia said in court Friday.
Wuerffel said in court he has serious health issues that include a heart condition and bipolar disorder.
"I have respect for your health problems," Riebman told him at the end of Friday's hearing. "What I've seen here ... is a human tragedy. And it's a tragedy that extended to your neighbors. I think you're a decent man, but you've been selfish."
The house has been in foreclosure proceedings, though HSBC Corp. has put them on hold temporarily as it reviews the case. Wuerffel said his goal is to work with the bank to be able to keep his home and eventually move back indoors.
He has taken to living in local homeless shelters during the colder months of the year, but has slept in one of the cars in his driveway this summer while the shelters were closed.