Press Release from Mayor Shortway About Legends
Posted: February 1, 2017
In February 2016, Vernon Township became aware of numerous zoning and code violations in the Legends building. Those violations placed the residents in danger and were caused solely by the inaction and negligence of the property owners.
The township contacted the property owners in an effort to protect vulnerable residents, and the property owners ignored the township officials. In August 2016, the township served the property owners with a first Notice of Violation in Order to Correct for failure to comply with the township’s zoning and other code provisions.
The property owners did nothing to protect the welfare of the residents or adhere to township codes. A second Notice of Violation in Order to Correct was issued in September 2016 with no action taken by the owners.
The township had no choice but to enforce its codes for the safety of its residents and in December 2016 the township issued 5 summonses for the zoning violations for which they had received two prior zoning violation notices.
The summonses were served on the owners of Legends and it was up to them as to which five residents of the building would have to vacate. Those summonses are pending before the court for disposition. The township chose to only issue five summonses so fewer residents would be inconvenienced, however, the township will move forward with issuing more summonses once the disposition of the first five are finalized.
In November 2016, the township adopted Ordinance 16-24 to protect residents in situations like that in the Legends building. The ordinance requires owners to pay relocation assistance equal to six times a tenant’s monthly rent or up to $10,000 when a tenant is evicted due to the owner’s own negligence in failing to meet the minimum standards contained in the zoning, property maintenance, or construction codes.
In 1999, the same owners petitioned the township to change the property’s zoning to allow long-term tenancy but they did not succeed. Now, they are openly and blatantly violating those zoning restrictions by renting to long-term residents.
The property owners in the Legends building have had a year to address the safety and other violations in the building. Many of the tenants are living in units without proper kitchens and are cooking on hot plates, which has created numerous electrical issues and other fire hazard concerns. In addition, the township was notified by the maintenance manager that some tenants were using washing machines in the units that discharged water into the bathtubs which caused overflow situations in which water spilled onto the floor in the units and the hallways.
The township issued ten first Notices of Violation and Order to Correct in February of 2016 and second Notices of Violation and Order to Correct for same ten fire code violations in June. A third Notice of Violation and Order to Correct is currently pending.
Instead of acting in everyone’s interest to abate the safety hazards, the owners sat idly by, collected rent checks from, in many cases, individuals and families receiving disability and other public assistance, and jeopardized the health and safety of the building’s residents.
Simply stated, the living conditions in Legends are in violation of township zoning and state fire codes and the township is merely enforcing these codes to protect its residents by relocating them.
It is time for the owners to correct any outstanding safety violations and provide relocation assistance so its residents can find safe, permanent residences.
Harry J. Shortway, Mayor