Homer FPD unhappy with Homer Glen decision
A recent decision to give a Homer Glen business an additional year to comply with the fire code has sparked the disapproval of the Homer Township Fire Protection District.
Acting against the recommendation of fire and building officials and Mayor Jim Daley, village trustees gave Kane Brothers Landscaping a second one-year extension to install required fire alarms and sprinklers. Brothers Frank and Chris Kane said they were “not aware” of how expensive the systems are.
Joey Jeraminas, deputy fire marshal for the fire district, said the Kanes previously have received three years to bring their building, 12137 W. 159th St., up to code. They bought the property — a former single-family residence, tucked away at the end of a long gravel driveway — in 2009.
When fire officials discovered the landscaping business was operating without a permit, “we sent them a letter in June 2010 with all the requirements,” Jeraminas said. “They have known this for three years. And now they have another year. I hope nothing ever happens there.”
Village trustees were given a copy of that June 2010 letter, he said.
The village rezoned the site, issued a special-use zoning permit for outdoor storage in August 2012 and gave the business one year to meet the fire code, village planner Erin Venard said.
The fire district never issued an occupancy permit for the site, but the village, which can overrule the fire district, issued a temporary permit because the business did not meet fire codes, village officials said.
Daley said the Kane brothers “did nothing” in the year they were given to bring their 2,000-square-foot building up to code.
“I am pro-business, but we cannot have six sets of rules. We either enforce them or we don’t. I will not trade safety for dollars,” the mayor said, according to a recording of that village board meeting. Daley said the Lanes have been “given ample time” to acquire the alarms and sprinklers.
“It makes you question, who knows who?” Daley said.
Jeraminas said Homer Glen’s fire code is “very aggressive, very pro-life safety,” as it requires all buildings built or remodeled after the code was adopted in September 2007 to have fire alarms and sprinkler systems. The only structures not required to have sprinklers are single-family homes.
If an owner changes the use of the building or remodels or adds to it, it must be brought to current code, he said, adding that the Kanes rezoned the property, changed its use and renovated the structure.
“Our goal is to make sure everyone is safe. Codes are made to prevent fires and loss of life,” Jeraminas said, not just the lives of building occupants but also the lives of emergency personnel responding to a fire.
The Kane brothers declined to be interviewed for this article. According to a taped recording of the Aug. 27 village board meeting, they argued that their business was seasonal, their building not open to the public and they have only three or four employees. They meet with people in their homes to sell their landscaping designs, they told the board.
They submitted plans for a fire alarm system, which has been approved by the fire district and is awaiting installation, Jeraminas said.
The Kanes’ attorney, Richard Kavanaugh, said at the Aug. 27 meeting that the sprinklers could be installed in six to nine months but they were asking for another year “just to be sure.”
Trustee Tedd Kagianas said at the meeting, “How can we circumvent life safety issues? Others went through the expense. If we do this, several businesses will call and question the integrity of our codes.”
But he voted to give the Kanes one more year to comply, explaining that he was one of the last trustees to vote and by then “it was a foregone conclusion.” He said he has known Kavanaugh a long time and believes he is a “man of his word.”
Kavanaugh is a former chairman of the Will County Republican Party. Kagianas is third vice-president of the county organization, and he and Trustee Mike Costa are GOP committeemen.
Trustee Margaret Sabo, who was on the board when the fire code was adopted, said the Kane brothers were being “aboveboard” and faced “extremely unique circumstances” in trying to do what the village asked.
“I think we should look at this on a case-by-case basis,” she said. “Let’s give them a chance.”
A week after the vote, Keith Hojek, president of the Homer Township Fire Protection District Board, wrote a letter to the mayor expressing his “disapproval” with the village board’s decision.