July 28, 2008

Landslide Leads to Lawsuit

By Catherine Idzerda, The Janesville Gazette, Wis.

Jul. 28--JANESVILLE -- This land is your land--and now it's disappeared.

This land is my land--and now it's unusable because your land has disappeared.

That's the basic argument of a lawsuit filed against the city of Janesville by the owners of a Racine Street apartment building.

In August 2007, a section of land behind 1916 E. Racine St. slid down a steep slope toward Kiwanis Pond, leaving a gash in the hillside about 20 feet by 30 feet long. About 15 feet remained between the edge of the slope and the apartment building.

The city evacuated the building as a precautionary measure--and it's been empty since.

Michael Tripicchio of Tripp & Associates of Streamwood, Ill., the owner of the apartment building, is seeking compensation for lost rent and for the city "taking of the land" without condemning it. The company is also wants the judge to order the city to correct the ongoing damage to the property.

The landside occurred after a period of torrential rainfall.

The city called in STS Consultants, a Milwaukee firm, to explain why the slope collapsed. The firm described the "slope failure" as "rotational." That means it was a catastrophic event, and soil exploded out of the slope from an area underground.

At that time, Gale Price, the city's manager of building and development services, said it would be up to the engineer to make the apartments safe to live in again.

Since that time, even more of the apartment's yard has slipped into the gulch, said Marc McCrory, the attorney for Tripp & Associates.

"I go out there periodically, and there are big trees that have fallen into that gulch," McCrory said.

McCrory said his clients have submitted an engineering report showing how the slope could be repaired by driving a special kind of pilings into the bank.

Price said this morning he had not seen the engineering study.

Jack Messer, Janesville director of public works, referred all questions to city attorney.

The Janesville Gazette was not able to reach the city attorney for comment this morning.


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