Wednesday, June 6, 2012

City sues to declare Valley Heights Apartments a nuisance

Posted By on Wed, Jun 6, 2012 at 9:39 AM

SUBJECT OF SUIT: Valley Heights Apartments.
  • SUBJECT OF SUIT: Valley Heights Apartments.
The city of Little Rock filed suit yesterday to declare the Valley Heights Apartments at 6900 Cantrell Road in the Tanglewood neighborhood a public nuisance. The suit wants an order for the owner to abate the nuisance or, if necessary, close and raze the apartments.

The 198-unit complex, which accepts tenants in the federally subsidized housing assistance program, has long been a sore spot in the neighborhood for noise, traffic and a belief that it's a source for crime.

Here's a copy of the lawsuit. It says the property has been the scene of at least four burglaries and thefts since April and property stolen there was stored on the complex premises. The suit said the property was contributing to the deterioration of the surrounding neighborhood,

A Facebook page sprouted up to air concerns about the apartments.

The apartments are owned by an LLC and managed by the Henry Corporation of Arkansas. A spokesman in the property management office said she was not aware of the lawsuit and was unable to comment. D. Deming Henry, who heads the management company, was not available for comment. I've sent the company a copy of the suit and asked for comment.

UPDATE: Late today, the owners released a statement that said they had worked with neighbors, police and city officials to address concerns and that tenants would be removed for actions of which the city has complained if management knew about them. The statement, which you can read in full here, said in part:

Henry believes that the City Attorney was pressured into initiating this action in response to an isolated incident and without proper notice.

Henry states that Valley Heights Apartments are a well-run affordable housing project and that he will vigorously defend against the City’s claim, which has no merit.

Abatement battles can be long running. It was just a couple of months ago that the city voted to finally raze the notorious "Sin City" apartments in Southwest Little Rock after a couple of decades of fights with neighbors over conditions there.

Realistically, a closure of the big complex isn't likely to occur any time soon, if ever. For that, the owners would have to be shown to be complicit in illegal acts occurring there.

Valley Heights' purchased was financed by a $4.5 million 2007 bond issue issued by the Pulaski County Public Facilities Board. This low-cost public financing comes with the requirement of a rental cap to insure units will be affordable to people of lower incomes. Some residents pay their own rent. Some qualify for federal housing vouches. All must pass a criminal background check and be certified to rent, a spokesman for the owner said.

City Attorney Tom Carpenter's notice to city directors about the lawsuit follows as well as a city news release

Dear Mayor Stodola and Members of the Board of Directors,

An abatement action under the CAP was filed this afternoon against Valley Heights apartments. The relief sought is the closure of the apartments in light of the fact that they have not been able to bring any real control to the property.

After a series of burglaries earlier this year, the property was kept at the apartments in a vacant apartment by two "residents," who were not listed as tenants or guests. This action, although combined with other complaints, was a main reason for the litigation.

Please let me know if you have any questions.

Tom

CITY NEWS RELEASE

City of Little Rock Attorney Tom Carpenter has filed a motion with Pulaski County Circuit Court to request the closure and evacuation of a crime ridden property — the Valley Heights Apartments at 6900 Cantrell Road.

“We added this property to our Criminal Abatement Program (CAP) in April 2011 due to numerous calls to the Little Rock Police Department regarding criminal activity at Valley Heights,” said City Manager Bruce Moore. “After extensive attempts to work with property owners, we decided legal action was the best avenue to take in regards to safety for the entire neighborhood.”

The nuisance abatement action was filed in Pulaski County Circuit Court yesterday. The Defendants are several corporations that collectively own and operate Valley Heights. The case has been assigned to Judge Collins Kilgore.

The City of Little Rock is asking Judge Kilgore to declare Valley Heights to be a public nuisance; order all tenants evicted and ask that the property be closed.

“We argue that under present circumstances, the Valley Heights Apartment complex is a threat to the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens and residents of the City of Little Rock,” wrote Assistant City Attorney Cliff Sward in the Complaint for Injunction and Order of Abatement.

“The activity at Valley Heights contributes to the deterioration of the neighborhood in and around these premises,” Sward continues, “and adversely affects the use and enjoyment of the surrounding lands by the adjacent neighbors and property owners.”

No court date has been set. The City will ask for a hearing at the court’s earliest opportunity. Attached is the formal complaint that has been filed.

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