Doctor cited for tall grass violation

Dr. Gautam Gupta’s downtown property at 330 W. State St. keeps attracting attention. On July 12, nearly a month after the city issued a notice of unsafe structure for the property, the city’s Neighborhood Standards Division issued a notice of violation of the tall grass/weed ordinance.

Machelle Foster, of the city’s Neighborhood Standards Division, said Gupta’s property was inspected July 7 by Neighborhood Standards staff who found the grass on the property to be more than the maximum length of 10 inches. Foster said the staff made the decision to inspect the property on their own, and no complaint was filed.

Dale Sones, of Custom Lawn Services, said when he mowed the property July 9, the grass was no more than 5 inches tall. “And that was on the north side,” he said. “On the south side, it was only about 3 inches. It was kind of maxed out at 5 inches in the worst areas. I was quite surprised to hear about the citation.”

An invoice from Custom Lawn Services provided by Gupta said the grass on the property was mowed at 2:15 p.m., July 9, two days after the property was inspected and three days before the notice of the violation was sent to Gupta on July 12. Foster said she advised Gupta to have the grass mowed every two weeks. Sones said he had mowed the grass about two weeks prior to July 9 and planned to mow the grass July 19.

“It does grow 10 inches about every two weeks,” Foster said. “That’s the schedule that we tell everybody.”

The city has issued 1,956 tall grass/weed violations this year, compared with 2,100 in 2003 and 2,657 in 2002. Foster said the increased rate of violations is probably due to the amount of rain the Rockford area has experienced this year.

Gupta, owner of the Nutrition Clinic of Rockford, has said he believes the city is trying to “coerce” him into selling his property to the city. The city offered to purchase the 37,000-square-foot property for $137,000 based on an appraisal conducted by Charles Davidson & Associates, which also appraised the land for the Perryville Road extension. Approximately two weeks ago, Gupta said the city increased its offer to $250,000, which he rejected. The city wants to build flat-level parking on the property, which is bordered by the MetroCentre, the Winnebago County Courthouse and Downtown Discount Drug.

Two blocks away, the William Charles corporation was paid $600,000 by the city for its Brown Building lofts parking deck, which that is approximately two thirds the size of Gupta’s property. The demolition costs were $200,000. The cost of resurfacing the lot with gravel were undetermined at press time. The residents of the Brown Building may now park there again.

Gupta was cited for unkept property and threatened with eminent domain in August 2003, cited for unsafe structure in June 2004, and cited for violating the tall grass/weed ordinance July 12. His own appraisal of the property, conducted by Appraisal Research Inc., put the value of the property at $645,000. He said his $440,000 mortgage on the property was paid off Oct. 2. Gupta has said he will fight the city all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court for a fair price for the land.

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