The Hidden Village Apartments, the location of a juvenile re-entry program on Clifton Boulevard, is again under the microscope of city officials concerned with reports of illegal activity at the complex.
Lakewood Mayor Michael Summers said recently that there “has been an unreasonable amount of felony activity there.”
Typically, when there are multiple felony complaints at a specific property, the city would file an official nuisance declaration and make the property owners pay for future police visits.
However, Summers said this case is a “tricky situation,” because the city is currently defending a 2008 lawsuit filed by the owners of the complex, who allege Fair Housing Act violations as well as civil rights abuses stemming from the re-entry program.
The Lutheran Metropolitan Ministry oversees the juvenile re-entry program.
Summers said the city has been reluctant to move forward with a nuisance complaint against the property owner, Hidden Village, LLC.
“The lawsuit paralyzed the city’s ability to take normal actions,” he said. “When (the complaints are) sporadic, it’s easy to take a more cautious approach because of the pending legislation. But when it becomes more intense as it has been, I have an obligation as public safety director to do something.”
Kevin Butler, the city’s law director, said the number of police visits at the property at 11849 Clifton Boulevard has “gotten out of hand,” but did not immediately have a list of the complaints.
“It’s a delicate situation because we’re in the middle of litigation,” he said. “Any type of enforcement action we take has got to be taken very thoughtfully.”
A 2008 city ordinance requires only two complaints to deem a property a nuisance — meaning that once a property is deemed a nuisance, the owners are sent a bill for each future visit by the police department.
“We haven’t declared it a nuisance property,” Butler said. “If anyone’s using the term ‘nuisance’ to describe this property, it’s being used colloquially, not in the legal sense.”
However, city has filed several building correction notices against the property. Hidden Village has complied.
“Any type of enforcement action we take with respect to this property, we get the impression that it’s being viewed as a discriminatory act,” Butler said. “And it’s most certainly not a discriminatory act — we’re just trying to enforce the law.”
Lawsuit drags on
The charges in the lawsuit stem from a May 2007 inspection at the property, that the lawsuit alleges was a raid based on race. The lawsuit — one of the longest standing in the Lakewood Law Department — was filed in December 2008.
“Nobody was denied housing, nobody was asked to leave, and no one was evicted. In fact they are still there today,” Summers said earlier this week.
According to LoveLakewood.com, the lawsuit was scheduled for an August jury trial in a Youngstown federal courtroom. It has been postponed while the city appeals one of the judge’s pre-trial rulings.
Summers said the city made an offer to settle the lawsuit, but noted that the parties are “not even in the same room.”
A ruling on the appeal is expected in 2013.
“We’re very anxious to get this resolved,” Summers said. “Federal courts move very, very slowly.”