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'It's complicated' – McIlvaine speaks on improvement project

Cliff McIlvaine talks with reporters outside his St. Charles home Thursday. A judge last week ruled the city of St. Charles can mitigate safety hazards at McIlvaine's. He started the project at 605 Prairie St. in 1975.
Cliff McIlvaine talks with reporters outside his St. Charles home Thursday. A judge last week ruled the city of St. Charles can mitigate safety hazards at McIlvaine's. He started the project at 605 Prairie St. in 1975.
Clifford McIlvaine photos

ST. CHARLES – Clifford McIlvaine invited local newspaper reporters Thursday to his house at 605 Prairie St. in St. Charles to explain how the city continues to put up road blocks in his attempts to finish his decadeslong improvement project.

“I’m trying to make the world better for everyone, and the city is trying to make it worse for everyone,” McIlvaine said.

McIlvaine, 71, started the project in 1975. The house, which dates back to the early 1920s, is his boyhood home.

Kane County Judge David Akemann last week allowed the city of St. Charles to proceed with repairing McIlvaine’s property, including correcting an unfinished roof and removing outside debris and construction materials deemed hazardous.

Jim Webb Sr., president of St. Charles-based Royal Builders, who is friends with McIlvaine, had been donating his personal time since 2011 in working on the project. He recently decided to withdraw from the project.

“It was strictly a business decision,” Webb said Thursday. “It was a business decision not to follow through on that.”

McIlvaine said the city wants to install a conventional, shingled roof over his objections. He wants to install a super-insulated metal roof.

“The roof will last 100 years,” McIlvaine said. “The whole building will last 100 years.”
McIlvaine said his house would generate energy when completed, in part through a wind turbine he wants to install.

“You won’t even know there is a wind turbine on here,” he said. “It will be a vertical wind turbine. The horizontal ones don’t work.”

He also has other ideas, such as putting in a museum to show off his inventions as well as his dad’s, along with city memorabilia.

“My dad did invent several types of light bulbs,” McIlvaine said. “I have a wind turbine invention that will solve the United States’ energy problem.”

Phil Luetkehans, an attorney for St. Charles, said it hasn’t been determined what type of roof should be installed. He said a contractor or roofer would have to make that decision.

“The city is not physically going to do the work,” he said. “We will hire people to do this work. It’s our goal to have work started this month, hopefully next week.”

To pay for the work, the city plans to put a lien on McIlvaine’s property, Luetkehans said.

McIlvaine acknowledged the project has taken a long time. But he said he doesn’t think he should be penalized for that.

“I should be commended for taking my time to do it right,” he said. “It’s complicated. It’s not a simple house construction.”

He had been working on the project by himself for most of those 38 years.

Much of his house is surrounded by evergreen trees. McIlvaine said he agreed to plant the trees in the 1990s during a previous city administration to provide a buffer for his neighbors.

“Noboby has come up to me and said, ‘Cliff, we don’t like what you are doing,’ ” McIlvaine said.
The city sued McIlvaine in 2010, pushing him to get the project finished. A work schedule later was agreed upon in court.

The project was supposed to have been completed by the end of September, according to the order. McIlvaine had the opportunity to ask for more time if he needed it, Luetkehans said.

“He had the opportunity to get extensions,” Luetkehans said.

McIlvaine said he doesn’t know whether he will end up taking legal action in an effort to prevent the city from doing things that he doesn’t agree with. Akemann told him in court last week that he cannot interfere with the city carrying out the court’s order.

“We will take one step at a time and see what happens,” McIlvaine said.

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