JOLIET – Owners of Evergreen Terrace have asked the U.S. Supreme Court to review the racial impact of the federal court ruling that would put the housing complex in the hands of the city of Joliet.
The petition for Supreme Court review was filed last week while the city was in federal court seeking an order that would force the owners to turn over the property.
Joliet wants to take ownership of Evergreen Terrace by Nov. 1, but that target date could be set back by the petition to the Supreme Court.
“We’re still doing our best, but it looks like it could be delayed because of the new motions that have been filed,” Assistant City Attorney Chris Regis said.
Regis noted that the Supreme Court reviews a “small percentage” of the cases sent to it.
But Evergreen Terrace attorneys in their petition argue that there remain constitutional questions to be settled about the impact of city ownership on housing availability for low-income African-Americans.
For one, the petition contends that a claim that condemnation of Evergreen Terrace “would uproot the largely African-American tenant community from the predominately white section of Joliet and leave them with demonstrably inadequate housing alternatives” was dismissed in court “with little or no analysis.”
In a news release issued by Evergreen Terrace owners, their attorney, Ted Tezlaff, stated that Joliet has not identified housing that would be available to any residents displaced by a change in ownership.
The city was awarded Evergreen Terrace at a price of $15 million by a federal jury in March 2015. The award came after U.S. District Judge Charles Norgle ruled in September 2014 in Joliet’s favor in a condemnation case that was initiated in 2005.
Joliet in August 2015 paid the $15 million to take ownership of Evergreen Terrace, and the money has been held in federal court until the property changes hands.
The transfer of ownership was initially held up by an appeal filed by Evergreen Terrace owners. But the city won that appeal in June.
An issue in the transfer of ownership, Regis said, is whether Evergreen Terrace owners should get the full $15 million. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, which subsidizes rents for tenants at Evergreen Terrace, has a $12 million mortgage on Evergreen Terrace.
Regis said HUD wants its $12 million out of the Joliet payment, but Evergreen Terrace owners oppose using that money to pay the mortgage.
He said Evergreen Terrace owners “are doing everything they can to delay [Joliet’s] possession of it because they’re making money from it. How much we don’t know, because they won’t tell us.”