An order prohibiting the commercial use or occupancy of a condemned property in White Pigeon was issued by a St. Joseph County judge last week.
During a show cause hearing on June 29, District Court Judge Jeff Middleton said the order means that, except in special circumstances, no one is allowed in the building that once housed the Tasty Nut Shop and Silver Spoons. Catering, located at 100 and 102 E. Route de Chicago.
Previous report: Search warrant executed at condemned White Pigeon building
Previous report: Judge orders improvements to historic White Pigeon building within 90 days
The 150-year-old building was condemned last fall after a series of safety issues – both inside and out – were noted by the village’s zoning administrator, Doug Kuhlman. Nonetheless, then-owner Marjorie Hemminga continued to do business and fulfill orders for Tasty Nut Shop during the busy Christmas season before ending site operations earlier this year.
More concerning, however, the show cause hearing was scheduled after Kuhlman on June 12 found evidence that Silver Spoons allegedly held an event despite the conviction and the risks of occupation.
During the 45-minute hearing, it was determined that Silver Spoons owners Jean and Max Webster – Hemminga’s daughter and son-in-law – had planned a wedding the day before. Kuhlman said he noted an overwhelming amount of evidence, including lights and a television turned on, a mobile phone charging on a table, a hot oven, fresh vegetable peelings in a garbage can, and undamaged perishables in the refrigerator.
Lawyer Roxanne Seeber, representing the village, provided a summary of the situation from the municipality’s perspective. She said the village’s main concern has always been the safety of anyone in the building.
Seeber said the items shown by Kuhlman confirmed that there was credible evidence of activity inside the Silver Spoons kitchen.
“When you look at these photos, it looks like it’s much more than the cleaning (of the building),” she said. “There are places in there that say the wedding was taking place or there was something in the fridge that was labeled for a wedding, we’re a bit concerned about the volunteers coming in and out of the building, we do not have an affidavit as required by the International Property Maintenance Code stating that the new owner will be responsible for the building. »
Seeber said using the building the way it was for the June 11 wedding was a violation that warranted the Websters’ arrest.
She also said the Websters had every right to continue a restaurant business, but the work could no longer be done from the White Pigeon property.
“I understand that the restoration fight is not our fight,” Seeber said. “At the end of the day, though, it’s our fight if (the Websters) continue to use this building and continue to have access to it.”
Tasty Nut Shop – via a quick act of claim – was taken over by Union Hall Block Building Inc., a 501(c)(3) organization.
Passing under the auspices of Union Hall Block Building Inc. earlier this year allowed the entity to receive potential donations and grants that might otherwise be taxed if not for Union Hall’s tax-exempt status. Block Building Inc.
“We would really like the new owners (Union Hall) to step in, close off, cut off the power and all utilities,” Seeber said. “If (the Websters) are going to be in this building with any professionals or the owners… Could you please just let the village know?”
Middleton said he reviewed the photographs provided by Kuhlman. He said it hadn’t escaped his notice that the items in the refrigerator were labeled “wedding.”
“It seemed to me that they were using the place as usual as a base for their catering business, which caused concern in the village,” Middleton said. “It also appeared that someone was sleeping in there.”
Those issues aside, Middleton said it looks like Union Block is close to complying with the stipulations cited by the village via Seeber.
“They are going to restrict access to the building, they are going to have cut off the utilities and the family cannot continue to use it as if they still own it,” he added.
Middleton shared a statement from officials representing Union Hall Block, who said a set of guidelines have been adopted to ensure that from now on only authorized entry into the building is made. Additionally, Middleton noted that Union Block officials have agreed to notify the village when someone will be in the building, the purpose, day and approximate time.
“In short, the relocation efforts were necessary before the contractor worked on the scene,” Middleton read. “The Régie has not authorized anyone to use the building for other purposes; the council nevertheless took reasonable steps to mitigate security concerns.
As a follow-up, Seeber said there is compelling evidence that the cooking took place in the building despite the condemnation.
“We had heard that Marjorie and (her daughter Linda Hochstetler) were banning entry, and everything had been moved and there was no catering,” she said. “It is clear that someone has access to this building. Now we understand that the deed has now been registered, but the village requires an affidavit, under the International Property Maintenance Code, to establish that the new owner will be responsible for maintenance, repairs and everything, basically understanding what he’s got now and… if they’re willing to take action to keep these people out, that’s fine with me. At the end of the day… it’s clear that the catering company doesn’t think (security) is a very serious issue.
Robert Soltis, representing Hemminga and Hochstetler, said none of his clients had the key to the building. Furthermore, he stated that Hemminga was in poor health and would likely require hospice care in the near future.
Earlier in the proceedings, Middleton provided full disclosure by stating that he coincidentally attended the June 11 wedding reception hosted by Silver Spoons. He asked all parties if they felt there was a conflict of interest as a result, but all parties indicated they were in agreement to proceed with the case.
In May, Middleton ordered safety-related improvements to the building or there’s a chance he’ll order the Tasty Nut Shop demolished.
Middleton said the parties would meet again to settle the matter on August 31.