Oak Ridge board reaffirms apartments unfit to live in
OAK RIDGE, Mar 22, 2013 (The Knoxville News-Sentinel - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
A years-long, costly effort by Oak Ridge to have ramshackle wartime-era apartments declared unfit to live in took another fitful step forward Thursday, but not without fierce opposition by the Knoxville lawyer who owns them.
The city's Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals voted 5-0 to reaffirm its November 2010 ruling concerning four Applewood Apartment buildings on Hunter Circle owned by Joe Levitt Jr.
The board continues to maintain that the buildings at that time were public nuisances. The board is seeking to have them demolished.
Levitt on Thursday threw a new wrinkle into the saga, bringing an architect to present evidence that repairs have been made to the building since the board's first vote.
"I'm inclined to think that the buildings are still unfit," board member Joe Lee said.
Levitt appealed a Chancery Court ruling upholding the board's initial decision, and the state's Court of Appeals remanded the case back to the board.
The appellate court opined in its decision that the board "acted without material evidence to support its decision to demolish the subject buildings."
The appellate court said the board needed to prove that repair costs would be 50 percent or more of the buildings' current value before it could order demolition.
That's a matter for another day, board members and city attorney Ken Krushenski indicated.
Levitt brought Knoxville architect Jim Odle to the meeting to report on building repairs. That work includes replacing supports and load-bearing walls, repairing water leaks and general cleanup.
"There's no mold, mildew or debris any longer," Odle told board members.
Lee made the motion to proceed with a reaffirmation of the board's earlier vote. He and Levitt have clashed in past meetings, and Levitt on Thursday renewed efforts to have Lee banned from voting on the case, saying he is biased in the matter.
"No thank you," Lee replied.
Levitt also tried unsuccessfully to renew objections, including his contention that the initial city inspections of his buildings in 2009 were done illegally. He also refused to share a copy of his repair report with Krushenski, whom he accused of "withholding information."
The other nine Applewood Apartments on Hillside Road and Hunter Circle remain knotted up in the judicial system.
A city judge earlier ruled three of the apartment buildings had numerous city code violations. Levitt appealed that decision, and it is still pending in Anderson County Circuit Court.
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