The city is suing the owner of a Northside apartment complex claiming that major issues with trash, overgrown foliage and more have made the site a public nuisance.
It is the second public nuisance suit filed against an apartment complex in the past two weeks, each with different owners but the same registered agent at an address in Plantation, Florida, according to court records.
The latest legal action focuses on the Northwoods Apartments at 1601 Dunn Ave. The city’s General Counsel’s Office filed the suit Tuesday against Northwood Owner LLC of Delaware.
City Councilman Reggie Gaffney Jr., whose district includes the complex, said in a statement Wednesday that he has been “deeply concerned” about the safety of Northwood Apartments residents. He said his office worked with the city officials and the General Counsel’s Office to address what he called persistent public health and safety issues there.
“The issues plaguing this establishment have persisted for far too long, and it was imperative that we took swift and decisive action to protect the rights and security of our citizens,” Gaffney said in the statement. “I hope that we are conveying a clear message to all property owners and landlords: The well-being and living standards of all residents are of utmost importance. We refuse to live or be treated as unwanted, neglected disposables.”
Wednesday’s legal action seeks a permanent and temporary injunction against Northwood Apartments, just west of Biscayne Boulevard and Interstate 95. It lists three major failures by the complex’s owner: lack solid waste removal; failure to maintain the swimming pool; and overgrown vegetation.
The city’s legal action follows numerous complaints by tenants and a total of 54 city inspections between Jan. 24 and this past Monday.
Many city inspection images in the suit show garbage, including old mattresses, sofas, tires and hundreds of garbage bags, thrown in parking lots and next to dumpsters, or rotted wooden enclosures where dumpsters should be.
“Trash service was discontinued on the property resulting in the massive accumulation of household solid waste being left in the location of the dumpster and in locations where the dumpster had been removed,” the city’s complaint says. “This resulted in … excessive objectionable smells, flies, maggots and vermin, as well as litter and a fire hazard. Several fires were reported where someone had started burning the accumulated trash.”
During the inspections, city inspectors also saw that the swimming pool was not being maintained, leaving it “dirty and stagnant” and a breeding location for mosquitos and other vermin, the complain says. The water is so obscured by dirt and debris that the pool bottom is not visible, “thereby creating an unsafe condition if a child or other person were to fall in,” it said.
Separately, the city has sued Colonial Forest Apartments at 5928 Firestone Road on the Westside. The General Counsel’s Office filed the suit Oct. 20 after the city condemned 10 of its units as unsafe. Colonial Forest Owner LLC owners the complex.
The Colonial Forest suit claims conditions there are a threat to “public health, safety and welfare of the community,” after residents began complaining a year ago about trash. The suit’s complaints are similar to those made against Northwood: failure to contract for garbage removal; failure to maintain the swimming pool; and failure to provide maintenance resulting in structural damage to stairways and balconies.
“Wood rot and decay was so prevalent in several balconies and a staircase to the upper floor of one building, the city was forced to condemn 10 apartment units serviced by the staircase due to the threat of imminent danger of them collapsing,” the city suit states. “This eliminated the necessary secondary egress to the affected units as required by the Fire Code.”
Jacksonville Today tried to contact the owners of the two complexes with no success, while emails to the registered agent were blocked.
No date for a hearing on the Northwoods Apartments injunction has been set yet, but a judge approved a case management plan if necessary during a hearing Tuesday, according to court files.
A judge in the Colonial Forest suit granted a temporary injunction Oct. 25, ordering the owners to immediately retain a licensed engineer, architect and contractor to inspect the property “and correct structural and maintenance issues.”