MEMPHIS, Tenn. — An effort to shut down the Peppertree Apartments in Whitehaven is on hold while its managers try to get some guidance from federal regulators.
In an environmental court, the lawyer for Tesco Properties, which also manages Peppertree, told the judge he filed two complaints in federal court seeking more input from the government.
“Every single tenant there receives some type of federal assistance. So we can’t take part in anything that’s going to run a file of our legal obligations with HUD (Dept. of Housing and Urban Development), our contractual obligations with the federal government, but also our obligations in the Fair Housing Act. And the city and the state can’t do that either,” Defense Attorney Alexander Wharton said.
The judge agreed to put a stay on the public nuisance case until the federal filings are complete.
“It delays us. As you know, we filed a nuisance action a couple of weeks ago after a longstanding history of problems there. It’s not a delay that we want. We don’t like being patient especially given how long this history is and the fact that we’re talking about violence and crimes that are affecting families and people,” said prosecutor Paul Hagerman, with the Shelby County District Attorney’s office.
Last week, the Shelby County District Attorney’s office declared the property a public nuisance. The announcement came after Memphis Police said they received 1,600 calls about issues at Peppertree in the last year and a half.
More than 100 of those calls were shootings, and 15 people were shot.
“We need this place safe, whatever that means. These residents, this community in Whitehaven, they’ve waited not just for these two weeks that we’ve filed this action, they’ve waited for literally 15 years. This has been an ongoing thing, an ongoing problem. But we’re not stopping, and at some point, as we told the court, we’re going to ask this court for a hearing to close this apartment complex,” Hagerman said.
The judge Thursday also allowed a temporary injunction against Peppertree to stand. That means no new leases at a complex Wharton said potential tenants are waiting to get into.
“It’s not a delayed tactic because - to the contrary - this hurts my client from the ability to accept new tenants. Right now, we have 10-to-15 people who qualify who are waiting. If anything, we want conclusion and certainty to this as well because what the state has sought in this petition of permanent closure goes well beyond what we believe the law allows federally as well as the state law. We’re going to do everything in our legal power, in our legal right and obligations to continue to provide good housing for people,” Wharton said.
The judge also said Thursday that tenants whose leases are up for renewal this month will need to be identified and handled on a case-by-case basis.
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