Bayside Villas may be under new ownership but residents, who complain of deplorable conditions and discrimination, say nothing has changed.
“Nothing has changed,” Bayside Villas resident Barbara Williams said. “It has gotten worse.”
The Bradenton Herald first reported on the “deplorable” conditions found at Bayside Villas last November. Multiple government investigations are underway, including one by U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio’s office, at the apartments located just off 20th Lane East in Palmetto.
But previous property owner Robert Goodman said his recent sale of the complex was not related to the probes.
“We were never contacted by any local or state agency regarding any investigation in any matter regarding the property,” Goodman said in an email Friday. “We sold because the sale and the timing of the sale fit our business model.”
It was when the 44-unit apartment complex last changed ownership in 2013 that residents say conditions started to deteriorate.
In May 2013, Highland Associates Ltd. sold the apartments for $1.05 million to Bayside Villas LLC, which changed the name from Highland Apartments to Bayside Villas. In December 2013, Bayside Villas LLC sold the complex to Palmetto Equities LLC of Boca Raton for $1.595 million.
During the three years he owned Bayside Villas, Goodman said the apartments passed every inspection.
“We made enormous improvements in the physical condition of the property in the three years we owned Bayside Villas, and are very proud of the warm relationships we formed with the majority of the tenants and with the staff and workers,” he said. “We understand that the 2013 sale from (the U.S. Department of Agriculture) to private ownership was a shock to some tenants, as rents went from regulated and below market numbers to near market levels. This move was our prerogative as private owners.”
But on June 30, the ownership changed again when CFC Gomez Inc., a Tampa-based organization, purchased Bayside Villas for $2.675 million. The complex was built in 1986 and sits on 8.5 acres, according to the property transactions report.
According to Florida Department of State’s Division of Corporations records, CFC Gomez, Inc. is an active Florida Profit Corporation, which became effective March 1993. Dr. Francisco Gomez, who is an orthopedic surgeon, is listed as the registered agent. Multiple attempts to reach Gomez were unsuccessful as the phone numbers listed were either disconnected or a receptionist answering the phone at The Pain Relief Group, which was another number listed for Gomez, on Friday said, “Dr. Gomez is no longer in practice under us.”
“No one knows who he is,” Bayside Villas resident Willie Davis said.
Bayside Villas residents say they saw who they presume was the new owner on site multiple times in May. Prior to one of the visits at the end of May, Williams said there were improvements made on the property.
“They put mulch down to make it look good for the prospective owner,” she said.
Despite the change in ownership, Cristina Guadarrama has remained as the Bayside Villas’ property manager.
“He has purchased a property that has a liability and he left a liability here when he left Christina,” Williams said.
Rubio’s office is aware of the change in ownership, according to spokeswoman Christina Mandreucci.
“We remain engaged on the issues found at Bayside Villas and will continue to hold its owners accountable for ensuring all residents are treated fairly,” she said.
Williams has also recently asked U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., to be a part of the efforts.
“We have reached out to USDA about the conditions at the Bayside Villas apartment complex and are waiting to hear back,” Ryan Brown, communications director with Nelson’s office, said Friday.
In the six months since she sent in the first complaint to the Florida Commission on Human Relations, Williams has sent nearly 2,000 total pages of information to Tallahassee, as well as Rubio’s office.
“I am just so grateful that Sen. Marco Rubio came to the aid to investigate Bayside Villas and to handle the (U.S.) Housing and Urban Development,” Williams said. “Sen. Marco Rubio, he’s got my back. I’ll be sure that his aides get everything I send to the commission.”
As the investigations continue, Williams said she is feeling confident.
“The truth always will prevail,” she said.