A developer said the village of Richmond fined him without notice for having an unkempt lawn in an attempt to force him off the property.
In a counterclaim seeking $2 million in damages, David Jones, head of dissolved company Jones Development Corp., has accused the village of fraud and civil conspiracy. Jones, who has properties in Illinois and Texas, wasn’t aware he’d been charged for the village’s landscaping efforts until the fines appeared on his credit report, he said.
Jones bought the property at 11106 N. Route 12 in Richmond for $650,000 in 2003, records show. At the time, he intended to open his own restaurant and banquet hall in the space, which formerly housed Andre’s Steakhouse, he said.
As time went on, the land’s appearance began to deteriorate, and the village issued weed liens on the property for mowing services dated Aug. 22 and Aug. 23, 2017, according to a complaint filed in McHenry County court.
Away at his Texas home at the time, Jones assumed the gardener he’d been paying was keeping up with the yard work, he said.
He only learned that wasn’t the case when he ran a credit report and found charges stemming from the village of Richmond, Jones said.
“I at the very least expected a phone call or some sort of notice about the problem that they were alleging, and that there was going to be some sort of court hearing,” he said.
On Oct. 19, the village filed to foreclose on the liens and collect the past-due fines, and Judge Michael Chmiel ruled in the village’s favor July 3. The property could be sold if Jones doesn’t pay the village $904 by Oct. 9.
The developer never disputed the request in court until after Chmiel ruled in favor of the village on July 3.
On Aug. 14, Jones filed his counterclaim alleging an openly unlicensed real estate agent lied to him about the condition of the property. He believes the village wants to erect new government offices on the land, which is about 100 feet south of the Richmond water tower.
“... at some point during the foreclosure of the property when it was known as ‘Andres Steak House’ the Village through some means ‘acquired’ 1 acre in the rear of the property for purposes of constructing the Village’s Water Tower,” Jones wrote in his claim. “Further, the Village ‘acquired’ an easement from the Water Tower over and on [the property] to Route 12 for accessing the Water Tower.”
He also denies receiving any notice that he owed the village money. Documents filed with the village’s foreclosure complaint, however, indicate he was issued statements for two charges, totaling $904.
“My allegations are that they want the property in the hands of the village of Richmond so they can build on that property,” Jones said.
The village has not responded to the counterclaim, and Village President Craig Kunz declined to comment on the accusations. The village’s attorney, Jennifer Gibson, could not be reached for comment.
Jones wrote in his claim that he’d seen the property several times during walk-throughs with real estate agent Howard “Sonny” Katzenberg. Each time, the building appeared to be in good condition, he said. Later, however, Jones removed ceiling tiles and found “pans” strategically placed to catch leaking water, he said.
“There was also a plastic gutter that was like affixed with a bungee cord to a steel beam,” Jones said. “It was there for the purpose of collecting water as well.”
The water ultimately caused mold to develop in the basement, and likely led to structural damage, Jones wrote.
Reached by phone earlier this week, Katzenberg said he wasn’t aware of Jones’ allegations. Katzenberg did not return future phone calls seeking additional comment.
Jones has been unable to sell the 7-acre property in the past decade, he said. The land’s $15,000 property taxes are to blame, along with asphalt, concrete and construction debris illegally dumped on the land, he said.
“The Village has placed weed liens on the property in excessive amounts, condemned the building and has actively discouraged interested buyers from considering purchase of the Property,” Jones wrote in his counterclaim. “Apparently, the Village of Richmond is making an effort to obtain the Property without paying [me] the fair value of the Property.”
A future court date has not been set.