The city followed through on a warning by filing its first lawsuit Friday against a substandard Las Vegas Trail apartment complex, Mira Monte Apartments, two senior assistant city attorneys confirmed.
The legal action comes six weeks after the city summoned Matthew John Baker, manager and director of Mira Monte Apartments LLC, to City Hall. City attorneys cautioned him to expect a lawsuit if he didn’t quickly act to raise the property to code, and enact specific recommendations in cooperation with the police’s efforts to curb crime on the premises.
That chance ended recently because of multiple firearm incidents, including one instance in which a person was shot. The violence prompted the filing of the lawsuit in Tarrant County District Court, said Chris Mosley and Harvey Frye, the two city attorneys leading the case.
Located on the southwest corner of Las Vegas Trail and Calmont Avenue, behind a high-traffic bus stop and corner hangout, and across Calmont from a highly frequented convenience store, Mira Monte is a well-worn code violator and police antagonist. Fort Worth police officer Richard Grinalds described the property to Mayor Betsy Price and other city officials on a bus tour several months ago as “the bane of my existence.”
“It’s clear that something’s got to be done,” Mosley said. “This is a nuisance abatement lawsuit, so we’re seeking to abate the criminal nuisance.”
If the city is successful in court, Mira Monte can be closed for one year, something of a death penalty, but that also presents challenges for the city, Mosley acknowledged, starting with housing hundreds of displaced tenants. The sprawling, multifamily complex built in 1968 sits on more than 5 acres of land, according to Tarrant Appraisal District records.
Baker, who has a Fort Worth and Amarillo address, could not be reached for comment. Victor Huhem, the attorney who accompanied Baker to the City Hall meeting, did not return messages.
The suit, a “rare” and “significant” step taken by the city, Mosley said, could go to court within four to six months.
City attorneys are also discussing filing a lawsuit, possibly within weeks, against Anil Patidar, the owner of the decrepit Knights Inn, who received a similar warning at his own City Hall meeting on Oct. 6 attended by city attorneys, police officers and code compliance officers.
Rampant negligence and criminal activity at Knights Inn, situated on the I-30 service road off the Las Vegas Trail exit, revealed in recent Star-Telegram report spurred city attorneys to contact Patidar.
The Las Vegas Trail neighborhood, marked by tightly packed, low-income apartments, drugs, crimes of all kinds and lots of single-parent children, has become a focal point of city officials since a Star-Telegram special report in June exposed a myriad of issues, from high unemployment and oppressive poverty to malnourished and under-supervised kids.
City Councilman Brian Byrd recently unveiled the Las Vegas Trail Revitalization Project in two meetings, each attended by an estimated 200 people. The project connects leaders in government, business, education and social services with residents to form committees that will devise strategies that will attempt to increase the Trail’s overall quality of life.
Byrd said the lawsuit against Mira Monte should send a clear message to other Las Vegas Trail landlords who fail to keep up their properties to code standards.
“Our hope is that other complexes which currently allow crime to exist on their property will take notice that the city will aggressively use all tools necessary in order to keep its citizens safe and prevent these bad actors from continuing to act irresponsibly.” Byrd said.
Code compliance has increased its rate of inspections on the property with the last one conducted on Nov. 13, according to compliance records.
The code officer noted 15 open cases for 2017 with violations that included water leaks, poorly fitting doors, damaged electrical outlets and wall switches, missing or broken light fixtures, holes in walls, nonworking appliances, rotten wood to the exterior of the buildings and roof damage, records show.
The complex is scheduled for inspection again Nov. 30.