An Oak Ridge inspector has alleged code violations at Applewood Apartments, and owner Joe Levitt has asked for a waiver or one-year extension for time to paint or stain the exteriors.
Besides the alleged exterior violations, the city also alleged code violations due to the accumulation of trash and debris at the 13 buildings on Hillside Road and Hunter Circle.
In his responses, Levitt said the debris is being addressed bi-weekly.
While Levitt wants a waiver or one-year extension on the exteriors, the city staff has requested an order for compliance within 60 days.
The Oak Ridge Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals will hear Levitt’s appeal at 3 p.m. Thursday, April 13, in the Oak Ridge Municipal Building Room 104.
The 13 code violation notices at Applewood Apartments were issued February 6, Matthew Widner of the Oak Ridge Community Development Department said in a March 30 letter to Levitt.
Levitt requested an administrative review, the letter said.
During that review, Oak Ridge Community Development Director Kathryn Baldwin ruled in favor of the findings by Code Enforcement Inspector Lisa Crumpley, Widner said.
Following that review, Levitt had the option to file an appeal with the Board of Building and Code Appeals. That’s the appeal the board will hear on Thursday.
Widner said Levitt is required to keep all vacant structures and land in a clean, safe, secure, and sanitary condition “so as to not cause a blighting problem or adversely affect public health and safety.”
The code violation notices said the exteriors of the Applewood Apartment buildings need to be stained or painted. The siding on the buildings is chipping and fading, and it is disrepair in places, and trash and debris are accumulating, the notices said.
The city and Levitt have been engaged in a long-running dispute over alleged code violations at Applewood Apartments. Tenants were told in early August that the apartments would close September 30, and the last tenant was reported to be moving out in early October.
At that time, Levitt said he is 85 and has had health problems, and he’s trying to clean up his estate. Most of his estate will probably go to the University of Tennessee and nonprofit organizations, Levitt said.
It wasn’t clear then what the next step might be at Applewood Apartments, whether a sale or demolition, or whether building demolition would end ongoing litigation with the City of Oak Ridge. At that time, there were still cases pending in Circuit Court and Chancery Court. That legal code enforcement battle between the city and Levitt started around the end of 2008 and beginning of 2009.
Levitt, an attorney who also owns property in Knox, Blount, and Campbell counties as well as several businesses, has argued that the city once expressed interest in buying the Applewood Apartments and that delayed repairs for more than four years. He said the city is trying to drive the working poor out of Oak Ridge. Applewood tenants paid as little as $275 per month in rent.
But Oak Ridge officials have said they are not trying to drive the working poor out of Oak Ridge but are enforcing city codes, just like they do at other homes in the city.
The code enforcement battle between the city and Levitt has dragged on in city, county, and state courtrooms. It’s included demolition orders, disputes over fines, legal appeals, votes on whether at least some of the buildings are unfit for human occupation and use, and contentious board and courtroom hearings on city code-related issues.
In the past, city officials have said they want the buildings repaired, while Levitt and staff members have said they have made repairs.
More information will be added as it becomes available.
See previous Applewood Apartments stories here.
Do you appreciate this story or our work in general? If so, please consider a monthly subscription to Oak Ridge Today. See our Subscribe page here. Thank you for reading Oak Ridge Today.
Copyright 2017 Oak Ridge Today. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.