Owners of Welcome Inn file civil lawsuit against city, claim motel closure in July 2021 was ‘arbitrary, capricious and undertaken in bad faith’

Welcome Inn file July 2021

More than 250 people were forced to pack up their belongings and leave the Welcome Inn when city officials forced the closure of the motel on the morning of July 28, 2021. | File photo by David Adam

QUINCY — Nearly one year after city officials displaced more than 250 people by closing the Welcome Inn at 200 Maine, the motel’s owners filed a civil lawsuit Monday in Adams County Circuit Court.

Quincy Property LLC claims in the suit the city’s actions to close the motel were “arbitrary, capricious and undertaken in bad faith.” It also claims the city closed the motel five days after a city official had written in an internal email that it “may not be necessary to close the entire structure.”

The suit was filed by attorney Paul Puricelli with the St. Louis firm of Stone, Leyton and Gershman on behalf of Quincy Property LLC. Documents filed with the Illinois Secretary of State’s office show the agent for Quincy Property LLC is Incorp Services, Inc., of Springfield. The managers of the LLC are Quentin Kearney and Kenneth Logan of Blue Springs, Mo.

Quincy Properties is asking for damages “well in excess of $50,000.”

“We’ve allowed the city to handle the narrative to this point for almost a year,” Logan said Tuesday in a phone interview. “Now that we have our facts in line, we’re pursuing forward with what we believe is the correct action to be taken by our organization. We’re going to let the courts figure it out.”

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Welcome Inn was closed July 28, 2021

Quincy Mayor Mike Troup said during a press conference on the morning of July 28, 2021, that the Welcome Inn must close its operations “due to the unsafe conditions that independent structural engineers have reported, based on their walkthrough and inspections on this property.” Notices were placed on every door at the Welcome Inn informing people “the structure is unsafe, and its occupancy has been prohibited.”

Troup said at the press conference that the Quincy Fire Department notified the city’s inspection department on Jan. 18, 2021, about concerns regarding structural issues in portions of the concrete balconies and stairwells at the Welcome Inn. An inspection was conducted on Jan. 19, 2021, and the city also ordered a structural analysis to be performed.

MECO Engineering of Hannibal, Mo., performed an inspection on Feb. 23, 2021. It submitted a 52-page report to city officials to review dated March 4, 2021, documenting 288 structural issues. The city issued a building permit on April 22, 2021, for repairs to what the city categorized as “Tier One” issues — the worst under city code.

Quincy Property LLC claims the city had approved its plan to renovate the facility and that it promptly began work to resolve issues in the MECO report.

Quincy Property LLC also claims the inspection, MECO report and building permit coincided with the adoption of the Riverfront Master Plan, approved by the Quincy Park District, Quincy City Council and Adams County Board in the spring of 2021.

The Welcome Inn property as it stands today. Photo: J. Robert Gough

Riverfront Master Plan approved months before Welcome Inn was closed

The Riverfront Master Plan identifies a proposal for the redevelopment of prime real estate within four blocks of the Mississippi River. It points out a “core zone” requiring “the greatest concentration of activity” as the area bounded by the river on the west, Fourth Street to the east, York to the south and Broadway to the north. The Welcome Inn sits in the center of that zone.

The Riverfront Master Plan states a key element for the project is developing a plan that re-envisions Maine Street, including a pedestrian corridor complete with public art and interpretive historical features. The plan called for the installation of a retaining wall on the northern boundary of the Welcome Inn property that borders Maine Street, as well as a new parking structure.

“Upon information and belief, unbeknownst to Quincy Property, the city considered the Welcome Inn an undesirable use that was inconsistent with both Quincy Next Strategic Plan and the Riverfront Master Plan and decided to use the notice to responsible party proceedings to shut down Quincy Property’s operations at Welcome Inn, forcing a fire sale of the property,” the lawsuit reads.

Emails show city had been soliciting offers to buy Welcome Inn

Quincy Property LLC provided to Muddy River News copies of emails — obtained through a Freedom of Information Act request — written by city officials about soliciting offers to buy the Welcome Inn, “even though the city had no ownership interest in or other right to sell the property,” the suit read. Quincy Property also provided an email showing the city urged Quincy Property to either sell the property or donate it to the city.

Quincy Property LLC provided an email from Troup written to Chuck Bevelheimer, director of planning and development for the city, and Jeff Mays, director of administrative services, on July 28, 2021. It read, “I would like to have a meeting with the owners to discuss their plans for this property? Will they invest in the required improvements and also agree to maintain the property to at least the minimum housing standards?”

Logan said he had called Bevelheimer several months earlier about improvements to the site.

“I said, ‘You guys got any plans or thoughts or things you want to do that we can team up or have another developer or something like that?’” Logan said. “And then the mayor asks if we would invest the required improvements to maintain the property to minimum housing standards. I’m like, you guys have never ever, ever, ever, ever sent us a frickin’ note saying anything about anything.”

During Troup’s press conference on July 28, 2021, he said the city’s inspection staff visited the Welcome Inn on July 15, 2021, to address a separate complaint. They observed minimal work had been performed under the building permit. Staff also observed additional failures in areas of the balconies. Troup also said Michael Seaver, director of inspection and enforcement for the city, informed him July 16, 2021, of the plan to close the Welcome Inn because of structural issues and the unsafe condition of the property.

Seaver: ‘It may not be necessary to close the entire structure’

However, the lawsuit says Quincy Property gave the city permission on July 22, 2021, to inspect the progress of repair. Seaver, Logan, Kearney, structural engineer Brian Spencer with Architechnics and Jim Bensman with MECO Engineering met the following day at the Welcome Inn.

An email written by Seaver to Troup, Bevelheimer and others, provided to Muddy River News by Quincy Property, said Logan and Kearney were “very cooperative.” He summarized the meeting in an internal email sent July 23, 2021.

“Brian is leaving for vacation but assured me he will have a preliminary report ready early next week,” Seaver’s email read. “I can’t foreordain his findings or recommendations, but the consensus of both engineers seemed to be that it may not be necessary to close the entire structure (although I will emphasize: There is much to still be analyzed before that conclusion may be reached) but at the very least, we will require a fully developed plan — both in terms of prescriptive design and scheduling — for any additional repairs.”

Logan replied in an email, also sent July 23, 2021.

“If your (sic) thinking strongly of a building closure, please advise so we can take the appropriate steps to get a legal authority to determine which steps are best for us and the city,” the email read. “That is not the direction we want to go, because I’m confident we can digest your issues and concerns and work out a plan with you that assures safety and protects business.”

Evacuation of Welcome Inn resulted in ‘calamitous bedlam’

The lawsuit claims Spencer issued a preliminary report on July 26, 2021. Included was this paragraph:

“Please note that the opinions and information noted above were based upon visual observation only. Based on additional investigation, which may include calculations and/or review of existing drawings or other pertinent documents, opinions offered within the final report may differ from those presented within this preliminary report.”

A copy of Spencer’s preliminary report was not made available to Muddy River News.

The lawsuit claims the preliminary report did not recommend or mention closure of the facility.

“Upon information and belief, although not communicated to Quincy Property, the city had decided to close the Welcome Inn weeks prior, completely without regard to engineering principles, concerns or recommendations and contrary to the building permit it had previously issued,” it read.

The suit also claims the city’s execution of directing residents to vacate the Welcome Inn premises was done in an “ill-planned and poorly executed fashion, resulting in calamitous bedlam at the site. Residents (and likely others) systematically caused extensive damage to the building, breaking windows, knocking holes in walls, stealing televisions and other appliances, removing furniture and stripping the facility of all manner of personal property. The city left the Welcome Inn unguarded and unprotected from further infiltration and damage.”

Welcome Inn owner says he’s only talked once with Troup

Quincy Property LLC believes the city’s taking of the Welcome Inn violates eminent domain, described in Article I, Section 15 of the Illinois Constitution: “Private property shall not be taken or damaged for public use without just compensation as provided by law. Such compensation shall be determined by a jury as provided by law.”

The suit claims the city’s actions resulted in a complete loss of the fair market value of the Welcome Inn improvements.

Logan said Tuesday the only time he’s ever talked with Troup was on the day the Welcome Inn was shuttered.

“I have never gotten a phone call about anything from him,” he said. “I’ve never been contacted by anyone from his office.”

Since Quincy Property bought the Welcome Inn in 2016, Logan said he has received one document from the city complaining about trash that needed to be picked up.

“That’s the only thing we’ve ever got. That’s it,” he said. “You can’t find documentation at the city that will show where they’re saying our property is a piece of crap, we’re filthy, we’re this, we’re that. We’re not behind on our taxes. We’re not behind on anything. You won’t find anything saying we’re a negligent owner of any kind.”

At Monday night’s Quincy City Council meeting, city officials said they had not yet been served notice of the lawsuit.

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