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City Goes To Court To Clean Up Oaks Property

May 3, 2012, 9:55 PM by Ben Dunsmoor

City Goes To Court To Clean Up Oaks Property

A nearly four-year fight to clean up the old Oaks Hotel property is now going to court.

The City of Sioux Falls has filed a lawsuit against David Graham and the corporation that owns the property.

The suit comes after years of complaints and city citations levied against Graham to clean up the site.

The land where the old Oaks Hotel used to sit is now empty and it's been that way since the building was demolished in 2010.

But even after the demolition, the city is still fielding complaints about the state of the property.

"We believe there is a fair amount of debris that does need to be removed and we would strongly encourage any property owner to take care of those matters before we get involved," Kevin Smith with Sioux Falls Building and Planning Services said.

The city says last year it levied thousands of dollars in costs against the property to maintain weeds.

In November, the city was called out for a large hole that was the source of a sewer smell. Smith says at that time, the city warned Graham that he needed to finish cleaning up the property or face court action. According to the city, he didn't and now a lawsuit has been filed.

"I don't think the city is asking for this to be looking like a fairway at Augusta National Golf Course at all. All we're saying is it should be comparable to any other demolition site, and there are numerous ones around the community, where people don't do 90 percent of the job, they do 100 percent," Smith said.

KELOLAND News talked to Graham on the phone Thursday, and while he didn't want to do an on-camera interview, he said he's frustrated by this lawsuit because he believes he's tried to comply with all of the city's code enforcement requests. When asked if he feels like he's being targeted by the city, he said to some degree he believes he is.

Graham also believes the lawsuit is without merit and says he has a company mow the grass every three weeks.

Smith says while Graham has taken down the building and complied with some of the requests over the past four years, it hasn't come without complaints, citations and a tug-of-war with city hall.

"He has complied only after being compelled to by the city," Smith said.

Now the city wants the court to compel him to finish the job, or have the city do it and send him the bill.

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