Tug of war continues over possible Capone hideout on coast

Published 6:41 pm Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A tug-of-war has developed between Mayor Connie Moran and city aldermen over whether to save a home rumored to have once been a hideout for Chicago gangster Al Capone.

The Board of Aldermen, in a special meeting Tuesday, again tried to grant Bruce Legate a permit that would allow him to demolish the home he manages.

Legate has requested a demolition permit for more than a year because he says Del Castle costs too much to maintain.

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Del Castle, which was built in 1927, is not in the city’s historic district, but a city ordinance requires the board’s permission to tear down homes that are more than 50 years old. The city’s historic preservation committee has begged aldermen to save the structure.

Several weeks ago, Moran vetoed a decision by aldermen that would have allowed Legate to continue with demolition.

Alderman Matt McDonnell was not at that meeting, so he put the issue on Tuesday’s agenda. The vote was 5-2 this time in favor of issuing the permit, with Aldermen Jerry Dalgo and Julia Weaver voting to deny it. Moran again announced her intention to veto the decision.

Attempts by city officials to work out an agreement between Legate and a local architect who would save Del Castle have so far been unsuccessful, and Legate said he is done with the deal making.

“When our city attorney has told us three different times in a public setting that we have no legal grounds to deny the man a permit, and we’re fighting a losing battle, in good conscience I can’t squander taxpayers dollars knowing that I have no chance in hell of upholding this deal,” Alderman Matt McDonnell said during Tuesday’s meeting. “If we don’t like our attorney, lets get us another one, but going on what our counsel says, I cannot on clear conscience say this is a smart thing to do…”

Moran said she had received legal advice that differed from that offered by city attorney John Edwards.

“I have heard from other lawyers that our ordinance is good and we have some standing there,” Moran said. “There are some other opportunities I would like to look into, including some grants, and an opportunity to speak with Mr. Legate. That may or may not happen, but at least I asked to explore those opportunities.”

The Del Castle debate isn’t over yet. McDonnell wants another special meeting after Moran submits her veto in writing.