SOUTH BELOIT - The City of South Beloit is giving the owners of the now-closed Garden Hotel and Conference Center until next week to decide what could happen next for the quickly deteriorating property.
After months of no contact with the city, representatives for the Chinese-based owners New Chapter Group met with South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl and attorney Aaron Szeto on Nov. 4. At the meeting, the city informed the owners they had until Dec. 12 to make a decision for the next steps, Rehl said.
The property at 200 Dearborn Ave., was condemned on Sept. 19 by the Winnebago County Health Department. Currently, New Chapter Group owes the Winnebago County Treasurer's Office $431,145 in back taxes and $2,265 in penalties on the delinquent taxes for 2018, according to county finance data. On top of the delinquent taxes, the city has filed code enforcement violations with total maximum fines of $2.7 million for infractions from May to Nov. 14, Szeto said.
The hotel closed for repairs in March but never reopened
In an interview with the Beloit Daily News, Szeto said the owner could rehabilitate the property, place the property up for sale, demolish the hotel or relinquish the property to the city's control.
"We are not using that as a hammer right now as part of our discussions," Szeto said. "We want to work with (the owners) right now. At the end of the day, if the owner cleans it up, that's all the better for the city and the taxpayers."
At the meeting, Szeto said, the representatives asked about possible alternate uses for the property that's currently zoned for commercial retail and commercial traffic use. Alternative uses discussed included assisted living facilities or apartments. The property would need to be rezoned with approval by the county's zoning board of appeals in order for it to be utilized in these ways.
"I told them that the city's comprehensive plan does identify the site as a commercial area," Szeto said. "That's the entryway to South Beloit. That's the start of where the businesses are and it only makes sense that we would want to see some commercial use there."
If no concrete steps are taken, Szeto said the city would review its legal options moving forward for the property that's valued at $1.3 million, according to county property records.
"We will explore what our options are and if the council decides what we would do in a code enforcement case, we would move down that path," Szeto said.
Szeto said if the city had to take over the property, the city could pursue that through placing liens on the property to force a foreclosure process; or ask for a judgment on the code violations from a judge for foreclosure rights to the property, but not take an adverse possession route.
Adverse possession law in Illinois states that property owners of record could challenge a takeover for two years after a claim is made. The city also would have to show proof of seven years worth of property tax payments on the property.