After nine months of bitter quarreling, costly repairs and threatened lawsuits, two neighbors on Thomas Avenue have apparently resolved a dispute that raises questions about building code enforcement.
Martin Hart and his neighbor Massimo Gaido first locked horns in July of last year when Gaido had some landscaping done on the land he owns between the two homes at 900 and 904 Thomas Ave. For months, Hart has claimed that the changes were forcing water into his basement, threatening the integrity of his foundation. Gaido cried foul over the fact that Hart’s home had actually been constructed so that it encroached over the property line.
Meanwhile, the office of code enforcement, village attorneys and the mayor were unable–or unwilling–to take a hard line on which property owner had the stronger argument.
Enter Anthony Lazzara. Without a legal background or any training in code enforcement, Lazzara managed to broker a deal between the men on a rainy Sunday afternoon.
“Quite honestly, I don’t think they’re ever going to be best friends,” Lazzara said. “We never sat down in the same room.”
Lazzara, who is running for village commissioner, spent four or five hours after church on Palm Sunday trekking back and forth between the two homes. He was there on Hart’s invitation after social and familial connections linked the two strangers.
“I know he’s running for office and I know he would jump through hoops, but I was really impressed,” Hart said.
The arrangement calls for Gaido to remove a landscaping mesh, intended to keep the weeds down, from the area between the homes. That mesh, Hart said, has acted as a waterslide during heaving rains. In turn, Hart will pay $500 to Gaido for an easement on the property, which will allow him to make repairs to his foundation. As the owner of the land in question, Gaido has refused to allow Hart onto the property, making repair efforts difficult.
In campaigning for a seat on the village council, Lazzara has heard several times that zoning and code enforcement issues are hot right now in Forest Park. Admittedly, he knows little about the intricacies of these issues, but said he is always willing to try and educate himself.
“I was floored when they were explaining to me that (Hart’s) foundation was over the property line,” Lazzara said. “I still would like to go back and research that. How many more properties are like this? This seems like a serious problem.”
In a March 14 report by the Forest Park Review, Hart complained that the village seemed entirely unwilling to make a ruling on the dispute even after code enforcement officials inspected the property. Hart was ordered by the village to make several changes to the exterior of his home, but those violations stemmed from the houses being so close together. And, Hart said, those infractions were permitted by the village when the house was constructed.
Tom Bastian, an attorney for Forest Park, told the Review last month that village hall is in no way responsible for the dispute between Hart and Gaido.
“There’s absolutely no liability on the village’s part,” Bastian said in that interview. “That has nothing to do with it. There’s a larger picture here and that’s to resolve things amicably.”
Lazzara insisted that he would have tried to help had he not been running for office. Either way, Gaido and Hart are pleased to finally be putting this ordeal behind them.
“He was very kind to us,” Gaido said. “I believe he did a good job. As a matter of fact, he’s possibly succeeding where attorneys and others with higher titles did not.”