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Article updated: 5/9/2013 7:19 PM

St. Charles man explains why 'complicated' addition has taken decades

Cliff McIlvaine, who was sued by the city of St. Charles in an effort to get him to finish a project that he began in 1975, stands on a landing between his original home to the left and new, super-insulated addition on the right, which he hopes to turn into a museum.

Cliff McIlvaine, who was sued by the city of St. Charles in an effort to get him to finish a project that he began in 1975, stands on a landing between his original home to the left and new, super-insulated addition on the right, which he hopes to turn into a museum.

 

Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

 Clifford McIlvaine, a St. Charles homeowner under fire for a long-running construction project, displays a steel Spanish tile section of a specially designed roof he planned to install on his home.

Clifford McIlvaine, a St. Charles homeowner under fire for a long-running construction project, displays a steel Spanish tile section of a specially designed roof he planned to install on his home.

 

Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

 Clifford McIlvaine, a St. Charles homeowner under fire for a long-running construction project, talks Thursday outside his home on the 600 block of Prairie Street. A judge last week gave the city permission to make repairs and send McIlvaine the bill.

Clifford McIlvaine, a St. Charles homeowner under fire for a long-running construction project, talks Thursday outside his home on the 600 block of Prairie Street. A judge last week gave the city permission to make repairs and send McIlvaine the bill.

 

Harry Hitzeman | Staff Photographer

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Why has it taken Clifford McIlvaine decades to finish an addition to his St. Charles home?

"It's complicated," said the 71-year-old after offering the local media a tour of his property Thursday. "It's not a simple home structure. That's what people don't understand. What is the crime for taking too long to do something? I should be commended for taking time to do it right."

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Last week, a judge gave the city of St. Charles permission to make repairs and correct safety code violations at McIlvaine's home on the 600 block of Prairie Street and bill him for the work.

The decision by Judge David Akemann came after years of litigation and court hearings. In fall 2010, the city sued McIlvaine, arguing he had refused to allow inspectors on his property since he was first issued a building permit in 1975.

In September 2011, McIlvaine signed an agreement to finish the work within a year. But he missed various deadlines in early 2012, was jailed for two weeks for contempt of court for refusing to connect to the city water supply, and acted as his own attorney last week during a hearing before Akemann.

McIlvaine, who has operated a home security business since the 1960s, said he decided after his father died in 1962 to build an addition and future museum onto the 1920s home that McIlvaine grew up in. Now, he feels like he's being "crucified."

"The city wants this project finished for the neighbors and the people who live in the city of St. Charles," said Phil Luetkehans, attorney for the city. "It's got to end. It's become obvious Mr. McIlvaine is not going to end it and has not kept his property in safe condition while doing it."

Luetkehans said by early next week, the city wants to have a contractor bury or shield wires that McIlvaine has run from his home to a detached garage. The judge ruled those were a hazard.

During a tour Thursday, McIlvaine explained that he prefers to use steel or concrete and wants his home to last 100 years.

"Why not do it once and have it last forever? Doesn't that make sense?" he said. "It can't burn and it can't blow over."

He could not estimate how much he's spent on his project, but he noted he salvaged large wood beams and other materials from demolished structures and scrap yards.

A week and half ago, McIlvaine hosted an open house to show neighbors and other residents what he was up to and why it was taking so long.

Photographs were not allowed inside the addition Thursday. Inside, it resembled a large workshop filled with stacks of shelves, a scissor lift and specialized machinery used to make insulating foam and fiberglass. The largest part, a three-level garage, had an all-concrete basement -- including the ceiling -- that one might assume was a fallout shelter. McIlvaine said he wants to turn it into a museum for inventions by him and his father, along with other St. Charles city memorabilia.

Justin Daugherty, a Woodridge resident and carpenter by trade, went to the open house with his boss, who runs a St. Charles firm. Daugherty said from a construction standpoint, he was impressed with the large, interior beams McIlvaine used to connect the outside of the home to the addition, along with the 30-foot-tall, 8-inch-thick concrete walls McIlvaine erected.

"It's his home and he should be able to whatever the (heck) he wants to it," Daugherty said.

Luetkehans agreed that McIlvaine has private property rights. "(But) he also has certain obligations and those obligations are to comply to codes and ordinances that are enacted for his safety and others," he said. "The court said this is a danger and unsafe and (the judge) gave us the leeway to fix it."

McIlvaine's biggest concern is how the city will finish his roof. He said he designed a roof of fiberglass, foam and Spanish tile-shaped steel that would ensure his house had maximum insulation. His long-term plans are to install a vertical wind turbine and solar cells on the home's south end to make it even more energy-efficient.

Last week, McIlvaine pledged not to interfere with the city, but he said he assumed the city was going to finish installing the roof he designed.

Bob Vann, the city's Building and Enforcement Division manager, said the city is compiling a list of firms to evaluate the roof and officials will know more when they peel back the rubber membrane that McIlvaine has put in place over a quarter-inch of fiberglass to protect it.

But make no mistake, the city plans to install a traditional asphalt shingle roof according to the court order that will meet current building codes and look like all the other rooftops in the neighborhood, Vann said.

"He had all the opportunities to do it the way he wanted to do it. We're going to have a qualified roofer go up there and see how to do it," Vann said. "I'm sure it's not going to meet Mr. McIlvaine's standards, but it is what it is."

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