See Our Project Video!


Remarkable Person: Robert Weinstein

A love of building beautiful things helps this ex-banker take a major leap in life

Chicago Tribune Article

Chicago Sun Times Article - June 15, 2005

Home builders sue Peoples Energy over fees

June 15, 2005
BY MARY WISNIEWSKI Business Reporter


A group of Chicago area home builders is suing Peoples Energy for charging too much for connection, reconnection and service pipe installations for new homes and other buildings.

The complaint, which seeks to represent all local builders, claims that customers have been wrongfully charged millions of dollars in unjustified fees, including deposits that were not returned.

Robert Weinstein, president of Birchwood Builders in Winnetka, said he recently paid $2,040 for a gas pipe installation to a house in Highland Park that would have cost "a couple of hundred bucks" a few years ago. Weinstein said he didn't feel he had the option to argue over the fee -- since the house under construction needed a gas supply.

"You're between a rock and a hard place," Weinstein said. "The builder has no choice -- you have to have the gas."

Some of the extra charges are not approved by the Illinois Commerce Commission, said Michael Johnson, an attorney with Halunen & Associates, which filed the lawsuit on behalf of Birchwood Builders, Columbia Properties and S&S Home Builders.

"They've been stealing from these builders and the builders are getting upset about it," said Johnson. "We're hoping the court will not only compensate the builders but punish Peoples."

Peoples spokeswoman Elizabeth Castro said Peoples does charge extra fees for services whenever something is needed for new construction beyond what is required by the ICC.

"We are required to provide 100 feet of service for new customers, if a developer needs anything beyond that, we charge a fee for our services," Castro said, referring to the distance between the gas main in the street to the house.

"Sometimes developers need special things," she said. She said the utility charges deposits for gas main work, which are paid back.

Castro said the company has provided the ICC with information about its pricing for construction-related services.