Friday, October 19, 2012

TOP STORY >> Condemnation will bankrupt him, owner says

Leader staff writer

The Cabot City Council condemned a dilapidated apartment complex Monday night over the objections of its owner, who said if they did it, the sale he was working on would fall through; he would be forced to declare bankruptcy; and the city wouldn’t be able to take any further action against him.

Despite obvious concerns from some council members that condemnation would prevent the owner from selling the building, the vote to condemn the property was unanimous.

Alderman Angie Hoschouer said the council had waited to take action on harmful structures in the past because of potential sales that never materialized, and she wasn’t willing to allow children to continue living in apartments with exposed electrical wiring.

Alderman Ed Long agreed.

“I’m not asking for a Taj Mahal over there. But I am asking for safe and sanitary,” Long said.

Alderman Rick Prentice said he wasn’t concerned about tenants having to move because the apartments weren’t livable.

“If they move, maybe they’re going to move to some place safer,” Prentice said.

Robert Kennedy, owner of the apartment complex on South Linden Street, told the council that he couldn’t afford to maintain or repair the apartments and had tried to sell them for several years.

Kennedy lives in Maumelle and said he drives to Cabot frequently to remove debris left at the apartments by tenants and others. He said he called the police about activity at the apartments many times.

He said his potential buyer owns a construction company and could remodel the apartments. The potential buyer also owns other properties that he rents to tenants like those in his apartments and knows how to deal with them.

It takes a skill set that he doesn’t possess, Kennedy said.

The tenants in the apartments were the catalyst to the inspection that led to the council condemning the property.

Neighbors from the 500 block of East Elm told a committee of council members two weeks ago that the apartment residents walked up and down their street, high and drunk. They said they knocked on their doors at midnight, asking to use the phone and they could be responsible for car and home break-ins.

The inspection of the outside of the apartment complex that same week showed, cracked foundations, bricks pulling away from the walls, buckled shingles, rotted trim boards, mildew, exposed electrical wires and uncovered dryer vents that would give rodents access to the inside.

One week after the neighbors’ complaint, the council’s harmful structures committee voted to bypass standard notification procedures and, with approval of the full council, start the condemnation process.

Wendell Gibson, who manages several properties in Cabot, asked the council to give Kennedy more time.

Gibson, who said he is not acquainted with Kennedy, looked at the apartments for another potential buyer and he is convinced they can be made livable. The brick veneer is only for appearance, he said. It can be removed and replaced with siding after the foundation is reinforced.

“If y’all pull the trigger here tonight, it’s going to cost the city a lot of money,” he said.

From the council’s discussion, it was clear that the tenants were part of their concern. Asked to comment about the issue, Police Chief Jackie Davis said bad areas could be turned around.

“If you clean it up and have good management, you can change lifestyles,” the chief said.

The owner has one month to appeal the condemnation to circuit court.

In other business, the council passed a resolution of support for the half-cent, statewide, 10-year sales tax for roads that will be on the November ballot and rezoned property at 500 E. Mountain Springs Road for R-1 to O-1.