Suit filed to halt wrecking ball

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By Carolyn Roy

Owners of the Hopeville Apartments on Second Street were ordered to post a $100,000 security bond as part of their appeal of the City condemnation ordinance that was passed by a 4-1 vote at a City Council meeting Aug. 26. Judge Desiree Duhon Dyess set a status conference for 9 a.m. Sept. 19 at which time she will select a court date for the appeal.

The appeal was filed in Tenth Judicial District Court by the apartment owners, Sterling Bank of Clayton, Mo., Aug. 29, three days after the City passed the condemnation ordinance. The appeal gives a timeline that started Aug. 5, 2016 when Hopeville Partners LP, obtained a construction loan from Sterling Bank to renovate existing property with the intent of providing low income housing that was approved for tax credits by the La. Housing Commission.

Because of cost overruns resulting from additional work required by the State Fire Marshall and a budget shortfall, the owners left the project. The petition says the condemnation of the building was based on an inspection report by City officials dated June 11, 2019. The bank provided an affidavit at the July 22 City Council meeting stating that an inspection of the property in April found it was not in a dilapidated or dangerous condition but in a state typical of any construction work in progress.

The inspector, Michael Maddox, said the buildings are safe and pose no unusual threat to public safety or construction workers. According to the petition, the bank is negotiating a contract with Maddox and his company, MACO Construction Co. of Clarkton, Mo., of which Maddox was president from 1988-2014, to take over construction with an anticipated completion date of six months after a building permit is issued

A second affidavit from Maddox presented at the Aug. 26 meeting stated the bank had hired MACO Construction Co. to install a security fence around the buildings and construction site, to be completed no later than Sept. 16. The City Council then passed the condemnation ordinance. The petition states the condemnation ordinance “was clearly erroneous and contrary to its own inspector’s opinion that the deficiencies in the structure could be cured through securing or repairing the structure” and the City failed to carry is burden to the requirements of its condemnation ordinance.

The petition says Sterling Bank has spent $2.3 million on the project and over $3 million in tax credits to investors from the La. Housing Authority will be lost if the project is not completed by Dec. 31, 2020. The petition asks for a ruling that the condemnation ordinance is illegal and improper.