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'War of the Rats': Neighbors, Supermarket Spar Over Cause of Rodent Problem

By Benjamin Woodard | November 7, 2013 6:34am
 Residents say Morelia Supermarket at 7300 N. Western Ave. is a "lousy neighbor."
Morelia Supermarket
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WEST RIDGE — Residents of a row of town houses say they've waged a "war of the rats" ever since Morelia Supermarket moved into a shopping center behind their homes.

"They've been lousy neighbors from the beginning," said Daniel Wolk, 58, an anthropologist who lives in one of the town houses with his wife.

Wolk also complained that store employees party late at night, tossing beer bottles over the fence shared with his courtyard. Another neighbor said he's been awakened as early as 6 a.m. on the weekends by noise from employees starting work.

Morelia's manager, Alex Gutierruz, said his store was not to blame, and the city has given the store a clean bill of health.

"The rats [have been] here forever," he said inside the store, which was founded by his uncle and moved to its current location at 7300 N. Western Ave. seven years ago. "At one point, we had a problem with them, too. We had to pay for the cleanup."

He denied his workers make excessive noise at night and said they didn't even start work until 8 a.m.

Rat holes can be seen around the neighborhood. Munir Alguzziel, 47, who lives next door to Wolk, pointed to one outside his front door that another neighbor tried to clog with a chunk of yellow foam.

"The rats are all over. We have killed so many of them," said Alguzziel, who lives with his wife and three kids.

Jeff Sangerman, who owns a real estate office next to the supermarket in the strip mall and has lived in the town houses along Campbell Avenue for the last 36 years, also blamed the market.

"I can say positively that we never had any rats in the neighborhood before the supermarket moved here," he said. "They feed here, and then they nest. It's a war, it's a war of the rats."

The complaints have caught the attention of Ald. Debra Silverstein (50th).

She said she sends her ward superintendent weekly to inspect the alley behind Morelia to make sure it's clean of rat-attracting garbage. The city also regularly baits the property to deal with the long-standing rat problem.

In August, she said, a city inspection found the market to be operating within the scope of its business license.

"There were absolutely no violations," she said.

She said some of the blame rests on the town house owners who haven't responded to her request to set up a meeting.

"We’d be happy to brainstorm with them and get that rat problem cleaned up," she said.

Sangerman agreed, and said that although his neighbors were "doing everything they can to hurt Morelia" they have yet to come up with a solution. He has tried to organize an association for the town houses — even one that didn't charge assessments — but his neighbors have been reluctant.

"There could be a better way of going about this," he said. "The name of the game is getting along with your neighbors."