Code enforcement says Bradenton Village Apartments is back in compliance

BRADENTON -- It's taken six years for the Bradenton Village Apartments, 101 15th Ave. Circle W., to resolve 129 code violations stemming from a 2009 code enforcement inspection of the complex.

The city has now declared the complex to be in compliance with all non-landscaping issues ranging from chipped paint to mold and mildew.

Volker Reiss, code enforcement compliance manager, confirmed last week that property owner Telesis Corps, based in Washington, D.C., has complied with the original violations detailed in a letter dated May 27, 2009. The complex is a Department of Housing and Urban Development Hope VI project, meaning it is a combination of private and public housing with about half of the 300 plus units occupied by Bradenton Housing Authority tenants.

For two years, code enforcement never followed up on their 2009 inspection until complaints from residents prompted a 2011 re-inspection that found the majority of the violations still existed. The city then entered a four-year deal with Telesis to bring the violations into compliance. In January, the agreement expired and the ensuing code enforcement sweep found little had been resolved.

The city agreed to allow Telesis more time, but pledged to inspect monthly with expectations of substantial progress. Reiss said the complex must still resolve its landscaping issues, but that the remaining violations have been resolved.

Tim Polk, planning and community director, prompted the 2011 re-inspection after seeing some of the conditions for himself. Polk has criticized Telesis for its lack of action and understanding.

"The bottom line is they

don't determine whether the compliance has been cured; we determine that," Polk said.

Polk said the complex's maintenance staff, "dropped the ball." On Thursday, the Bradenton Herald learned that the complex's maintenance director has voluntarily left his position.

Mending fences

The physical condition of the complex has been just one issue for residents, who have reported management bullying tactics. Residents complained about being fearful to report interior issues. City and BHA officials alike confirmed an environment of fear within the complex, specifically in the past two years since the passing of the Rev. Ed Leftwich Jr., who served as community organizer for Village residents.

In April, Telesis named former Manatee County School Board candidate and Village resident Rodney Jones as the new community coordinator. Jones was tasked with mending fences between unhappy residents and the management company, Roush Feld Ltd., created by Telesis. Jones said the community is "re-branding ourselves. We are kind of turning a page and not focus on management, but the residents. We have beautiful, talented people living there."

The community is coming together for special events called "Be Part of the Solution, it's our community, it's our solution, it's our future." Jones has other events planned such as summer youth activities, a Fourth of July celebration and a senior citizen "Sock Hop." The community also has submitted a pre-application to the city to begin its planned community garden in 10 acres between the complex and Rogers Elementary School.

The vacant lot was going to be a third phase of the complex until the Great Recession hit, and there are no plans for development. Residents have complained that it has become an area for unwanted wildlife and some residents have used it as a garbage dump. The BHA has been in a quandary over its residents because it had fielded multiple complaints, but has no management authority under the terms of the management agreement.

BHA commissioners expressed relief last week that the atmosphere is beginning to shift. BHA Executive Director Ellis Mitchell Jr. and Jones are planning a series on METV highlighting the community and what it has to offer.

"I'm happy to see them turning the corner on the code violations," said Mitchell.

Jones received praise from BHA Commissioner Rigo Rivera, who said the Village "has been missing a leader of his magnitude. The desire was there, but they lacked someone taking the reins."

Jones said the difference is simple. "I don't see us as separate," he said. "I see us as one community and that will always be my posture in moving forward."

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter @urbanmark2014.