How a Paperwork Snafu Almost Took Down a Century-Old Home

An old house and a new buyer with plans to revitalize it. How a city's paperwork error almost led to the demolition of a house that has been in their family for decades. NBC 5's Lisa Parker reports.

(Published Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018)

The email came in to NBC 5 Responds with one simple, urgent subject line: “Please save my house.”

Debbie and Scott York said they had a story to tell, but not much time to tell it to us. The city of North Chicago had plans to unfairly demolish the home that’s been in Scott’s family for decades, the couple said. And they planned to do it the next day.

The Yorks said the demolition order was never sent to them directly, although North Chicago had successfully sent them other house-related documents for years.

When NBC 5 Responds reached out to North Chicago, a spokesperson first told us the house was no longer on the demo list. Through a subsequent Freedom of Information request, we learned the Yorks’ property was indeed slated for demo, but also that it had been on the city’s radar for years.

We reviewed citations dating back to 1989—all problems the Yorks say they addressed in order to keep their certificate of occupancy current. The FOI revealed that the city had erroneously sent the demolition notice to an address other than the Yorks’ home in Antioch. The Yorks say it was sent to a bank trust their lawyer set up years ago, and that it was not forwarded.

“This was part of our nest egg,” Debbie York told NBC 5 Responds. “To have this taken away from us would have just been financially catastrophic for us.”

After our inquiry, the city did not demolish the Yorks’ property, instead working with them and the new buyer to start a new chapter for the very old, very historic home.

A spokesperson for North Chicago declined our request for an on-camera interview, sharing instead the following statement:

“We have been working diligently to revitalize this city through various efforts including aggressively addressing vacant and abandoned properties. The outcome of the building formerly owned by the York’s is a successful one. The city would prefer to have a vacant/abandoned property brought into code compliance and put into productive use rather than the alternative: demolition.”

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