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Bradenton Village in disrepair

BRADENTON -- The city of Bradenton is urging the manager of Bradenton Village to correct code violations officials say threaten to undermine the revitalization of the south downtown neighborhood.

City Planning Director Tim Polk said the colorful, stucco housing complex along First Street/U.S. 301, opened in 2003 at the site of the former Rogers Garden Apartments, is slowly falling into disrepair.

Chipped paint, neglected landscape and dilapidated doors and windows dot the complex, he said.

Despite a nearly two-year effort by the code enforcement division, city officials said many of the violations have not been corrected.

“That was a beautiful development when it was built. We don’t want to see it deteriorate because of the people who operate it,” Polk said.

But Wenston DeSue, the executive director of the Bradenton Housing Authority, said the authority and Washington, D.C.-based developer Telesis Corp. are working with the city to correct what he considers minor repairs.

“Comparatively speaking with other properties in the community, it is a maturing property, but not one that shows any serious issues,” DeSue said.

Bradenton Village, a combination of public housing and mixed-income units, was built thanks to $21.4 million in Hope VI funding from U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, private investment and other government grants.

The city donated seven acres of land, contributed $250,000 worth of infrastructure and has agreed to pay $100,000 annually for 15 years of tax-increment financing funds.

The housing authority and Telesis created Rousch Field Limited Partnership to maintain the property. Neither Telesis development director Bill Sawicki nor the company’s local attorney, Will Robinson, was available for comment Wednesday.

Code enforcers visited Bradenton Village during the past two weeks for the first official reinspection since finding code violations at about 120 housing units on April 30, 2009.

Volker Reiss, the city’s code enforcement manager, said about one-third of the violations have been corrected by Rousch Field.

“It’s a multitude of littler issues,” Reiss said. “The reason there are so many cases is because there are so many addresses out there.”

The city’s code enforcement board has put off levying formal code violations in the hopes Rousch Field will bring the units into compliance on its own. The board continued discussion of Bradenton Village code complaints in each of its final three meetings of 2010.

A hearing scheduled for Monday was postponed until February, Reiss said.

In a letter dated May 27, 2009, from the code enforcement officer Cheryl Landers to Rousch Field, each unit listing contained a description of its code violation. The vast majority featured the descriptions “the exterior of the structure contains dirt, mold and mildew,” and “the existing landscaping is not maintained according to the PDP (project development plans).”

Polk made a complaint to the code enforcement division as a citizen after visiting the complex in early 2009.

“I saw chipped and peeling paint,” he said. “I saw doors that should have been fixed and weren’t. I saw windows that should have been replaced.”

Bradenton City Council discussed Bradenton Village during a workshop after its regular meeting Wednesday.

City Clerk Carl Callahan showed council members photos of the units and said the code enforcement department is trying to keep the complex from slipping back toward the days of Rogers Garden, when the area was known for crime, flooding and blight.

“Once it starts going south, you want to take care of it. ... It was a very, very, very nice project. It should be very nice for some time to come,” Callahan said.

But one council member wondered if the city is using a double standard in code issues, warning Bradenton Village for minor violations while letting more serious grievances go unchecked.

Ward 5 Councilman Harold Byrd Jr. said the Love Apartments, owned by the city’s Central Community Redevelopment Agency, is in much worse shape than Bradenton Village.

Byrd said he visited a Love Apartments unit during the holidays and found graffiti on the walls, no working stove or heating unit and no floor covering.

“Many of you on council would be appalled at the conditions on one of the properties that is run by one of the CRAs. ... We need to apply an even hand when we look at all properties,” Byrd said.

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