Note: This story was updated on Nov. 7 to include links to the opinion.
The city’s top legal official on Monday said he doesn’t plan to appeal an appellate court decision that sent the order to demolish four Applewood Apartment buildings back to a municipal board.
“I don’t want to hold this up by appealing this any further,” Oak Ridge City Attorney Ken Krushenski said. “We’re going to do what the Court of Appeals said.”
The Oak Ridge Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals ordered the buildings demolished on Nov. 11, 2010. The order was upheld by the Anderson County Chancery Court, but Applewood Apartments owner Joseph J. Levitt Jr., a Knoxville attorney, appealed.
In a three-judge opinion filed Oct. 30, the Tennessee Court of Appeals in Knoxville said the Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals “acted without material evidence to support its decision to demolish the buildings.”
The appellate court said the board may only order demolitions when repair costs exceed 50 percent of property values. However, no evidence was presented at the 2010 Applewood hearing about the original condition or value of the buildings, or the repair costs, the court said.
The city won on all other issues, Krushenski said.
“As far as we’re concerned, everything else is over with,” he said.
Krushenski said the Board of Building and Housing Code Appeals will now have an evidentiary hearing that will be limited to the building and repair costs. He said the board will be able to consider demolition orders if repair costs exceed more than 50 percent of building values. A hearing date hasn’t been set yet.
In its opinion, the Court of Appeals said board member Joe Lee “moved to order the demolition of the subject buildings because he believed that (Levitt) had already been given an adequate amount of time in which to repair the buildings.
“While (the) owner’s continued noncompliance may have been infuriating to the board, the board did not have the power to order the demolition of property simply because owner failed to follow directions,” the court said.
The other issues reviewed by the court ranged from the constitutionality of administrative warrants used to inspect Applewood buildings to Lee’s alleged bias against Levitt.
Levitt could appeal the court’s decision to the Tennessee Supreme Court. He wasn’t available for comment late Monday afternoon
There are total of 10 Applewood Apartment buildings that have been ordered demolished. Krushenski said the other six demolition cases are pending in Anderson County Chancery Court.
The Oak Ridge City Court has ordered that three more buildings be repaired. That order has been appealed to Anderson County Circuit Court, Krushenski said.
The city has fought a code enforcement battle against the 13-building apartment complex on Hillside Road and Hunter Circle for several years. City officials say they want the buildings repaired, while Levitt says he has made repairs.
You can read the opinion here.