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United States v. Shanrie Co.

March 17, 2010

UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, PLAINTIFF,
v.
SHANRIE CO., INC., DAN SHEILS, NETEMEYER ENGINEERING ASSOCIATES, INC., FOREST HILLS, L.P., THE MARK TWAIN TRUST, PAMELA BAUER, AND BRIAN BAUER, DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Herndon, Chief Judge

ORDER

I. Background

Now before the Court is the issue of devising an appropriate remedial plan to address the Fair Housing Act ("FHA") violations at the Rockwood Court apartments and Hartman Lane apartments in Shiloh, Illinois. On August 17, 2009 the Court granted summary judgment on the issue of liability in favor of Plaintiffs and ordered Defendants Shanrie Co., Inc., Dan Sheils, Netemeyer Engineering Associates, Inc., Forest Hills, L.P., the Mark Twain Trust, Pamela Bauer, and Brian Bauer (collectively "Defendants") to submit a proposed remedial plan detailing how they intend to retrofit Rockwood Court and Hartman Lane apartments to bring them into full compliance with the FHA (Doc. 150). Defendants submitted a proposed remedial plan on October 1, 2009 (Doc. 151). The United States filed a response on November 3, 2009 (Doc. 152). In its response, the United States argued that the Defendant's proposals were unacceptable and that the Defendants should be required to complete all of the retrofits in a timely manner. The United States has voiced its objections on three areas of Defendants' proposed remedial order: (1) the timetable for completing the retrofits, (2) the retrofits at two of the buildings at Hartman Lane which Defendants have contended can not be retrofitted, and (3) the inspection of the retrofits. The Court will discuss the parties arguments as to these three issues below.

II. Analysis

A. Timetable for Retrofits

Defendants' proposed remedial plan calls for retrofits to the common use areas to be completed in one year while they suggest that they be given a time line of three years to complete retrofits to the interior of the groundfloor units. However, the United States contends that such timetables are too long and would allow for continued discrimination.*fn1 The United States instead suggests a timetable of six months for completion of accessible routes to the ground floor units and one year for retrofits to the unit interiors. While this Court agrees that the timetables suggested by the Plaintiffs are unsubstantiated,*fn2 too lengthy, and would prevent disabled individuals in wheelchairs from even accessing the groundfloor units until such accessible routes are provided, the Court does not agree with the short time frames provided by the Government. Instead, this Court has attempted to accommodate some of Defendants' concerns while ensuring that the retrofits are completed in a timely manner. Therefore, the Court orders that all retrofits to the groundfloor unit interiors be completed within one (1) year of the date of this order, regardless of whether a unit becomes vacant during that timeperiod. Further, Defendants shall provide accessible routes to the mailboxes and dumpsters, to the extent ordered in the remedial plan, within thirty (30) days and provide accessible routes to the groundfloor units within nine (9) months.

B. Retrofits to the Two Units Located at the Northeast Breezeway of 1679 Harman Lane

Defendants proposed remedial plan also omits two units located at the Northeast Breezeway of 1679 Hartman Lane. Defendants state in a footnote that, as a practical matter, an accessible route cannot be provided to those buildings due to the "existing terrain and site conditions." Defendants have failed to provide any practical explanation as to why the two units can not be made accessible and only mention the impracticality of the retrofits to those units in a two-sentence footnote. Instead, Defendants merely state that there is no practical way to provide accessible routes to the two units and have not included the two units in their proposed retrofits. However, Defendants' request is not a minor one. Defendants' proposal would leave two whole units of the Rockwood complex, which the Court has already found to be in violation of the FHA, to go unremedied. Such a proposal is unacceptable and would defeat the purposes of the FHA because it would leave some units unaccessible to disabled individuals. See Bronk v Ineichen, 54 F.3d 425, 429 (7th Cir. 1995). Further, Defendants have not made anything other than a bare assertion that the proposed retrofits are impractical or impossible due to the terrain and site conditions. Therefore, the Court finds that the proposed retrofits should apply to all of the covered units including the two units located at the Northeast breezeway of 1679 Hartman Lane.

C. Neutral Inspector

The United States also objects to the Defendants' proposed schedule for conducting an on-site inspection of the retrofits by a neutral investigator.*fn3 The Government argues that the current schedule offered by Defendants would allow the inspection to occur before all of the retrofits were completed allowing some of the retrofitted apartments to go uninspected. Instead, the United States requests that an inspection of the retrofits occur after all of the retrofits are completed in order to determine that all of the retrofits have been completed in compliance with the Court's Order. The Court agrees with the United States that it is important to make sure that all retrofits have been completed in compliance with the Remedial Plan and as such finds that the retrofits should be inspected by a neutral inspector once all of the retrofits are completed.

III. Remedial Plan

The Court has thoroughly reviewed the arguments and proposals of both parties. The Court notes that the Government does not object to the substance of the proposed retrofits offered by Defendants, except as to those issues previously discussed in this Order. The Court also agrees, except to the extent previously discussed, that the submitted proposed retrofits are sufficient to remedy the FHA violations at Hartman Lane and Rockwood Apartments. Accordingly, it is hereby ORDERED that Shanrie Company, Inc., Dan Sheils, Netemeyer Engineering Associates, Inc., Forest Hills, L.P., the Mark Twain Trust, Pamela Bauer, and Brian Bauer (collectively "Defendants") shall make the following retrofits to Hartman Lane Apartments and Rockwood Apartments, within the times specified:

1. Within thirty (30) days of this Order, Defendants shall:

a. Hartman Lane Apartments

1) Provide an ANSI compliant accessible route to the mailbox and dumpster facilities by lowering mailboxes for ground floor units at every breezeway to no higher than 48" to flap and relocating and adding dumpster at west side of 1679 Hartman Lane at an accessible route serving each building.*fn4

b. Rockwood Apartments

1) Provide an ANSI compliant accessible route to the mailbox and dumpster facilities by assigning ground floor units to mailboxes located at no more than 54" from the ground to the operable controls and add striping to provide an ANSI compliant passenger loading zone parallel to the mailboxes. Also add striping to ...


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