Andre Dixon appears to have a nice house – until you pull into the driveway that is sinking.
An interior wall of the garage is visibly separating from the house, creating a gap showing the sky where the ceiling should be.
Exterior siding on the back of the garage is buckling.
The basement walls have cracks that Dixon attributes to the sinking garage.
“They sold me a lemon,” Dixon says repeatedly.
“They” is the city of Joliet, which developed the Richards Grove subdivision in the 1990s, creating a neighborhood of affordable homes on the site of the old Gerlach Barklow calendar factory that was destroyed by a fire.
Dixon was able to buy the house for $60,000 in 1998.
Now he wants out. He wants the city to buy the house back.
Joliet officials have stopped talking with Dixon because he would not accept anything other than the $122,500 appraised value of the house, interim City Manager Martin Shanahan said.
“The negotiations have ended,” Shanahan said. “We’re not going that high.”
City officials also note that Dixon has refinanced the house three times.
“That $60,000 purchase price was paid off long ago,” interim City Attorney Chris Regis said. “There’s still an outstanding balance on the mortgage that shouldn’t really be there.”
Dixon said he consolidated credit card debt into the mortgage on one refinancing, but the other two were done only to get better terms on his interest.
His version of why negotiations ended is different.
“That’s so far from the truth – to say that they stopped negotiating with me because I wouldn’t take a lower amount,” he said. “They stopped negotiating after they made the original offer.”
Dixon contends that the city offered to buy the house at market value after doing its own appraisal and finding the cause of the sinkhole.
“The estimated market value is $122,500,” reads an Oct. 6, 2017, letter from Community Development Director Kendall Jackson. “In our discussions with the interim city manager there was an additional $3,500 in moving expenses that would be included in the city’s offer to purchase your property. The offer is valid for the next 60 days.”
The letter indicates a copy was sent to Shanahan.
Dixon said the allowance of moving expenses later was increased to $5,000, and he accepted the offer.
Shanahan said the city never offered to pay $122,500 for the house. He also said that no offer would be official until it is approved by the City Council.
Several council members have been to Dixon’s house.
“There definitely is a problem there,” councilmember Michael Turk said. “This is my opinion. We have some obligation. The question is to what degree.”
Turk and city officials said the same problem has not developed at any other homes in Richards Grove. However, they have acknowledged problems since 2007, when an inspection determined the garage was sinking.
Dixon is on his second garage. The first one was replaced under warranty.
After problems developed with the second garage, Dixon said, the city dug up both sides of the driveway and found rubble from the Gerlach Barklow factory in the ground.
“They didn’t have a clue what was down there until they dug up that whole area,” Dixon said. “They took away a truckload of stuff that they dug up, and there’s still more down there. Once they saw what they needed to see, that’s when they made the offer.”