Peppertree apartment owners continue fight to keep complex open

Published: Dec. 21, 2021 at 8:23 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 22, 2021 at 8:12 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - Tuesday, the fate of Peppertree Apartments took center stage in federal court.

The complex was deemed a public nuisance following 1,600 police service calls to the complex over a 20-month period.

Attorneys representing Tennessee, Memphis, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), and the apartment complex were all present to provide a status update on the case.

After the City of Memphis and Shelby County filed a nuisance petition, which calls for all services to end at the Peppertree Apartments, the apartment owners and managers sued them in federal court to keep the apartments open.

Judge John Fowlkes now has to make a decision on whether the case will stay in federal court or return to environmental court.

Jenifer Sink, the city’s chief legal officer, made it clear where the city stands.

“The city’s position is, and the state’s position is that the environmental court has plenty of authority to hear the matters, has a lot of experience hearing these types of matters,” Sink said.

With everything on hold until federal court weighed in, an order allowing extensions on existing leases until December 31 was issued.

Fowlkes asked the city how it plans to help residents in that situation.

“The city is going to ask the environmental court to extend that to at least to the end of February so that in the meantime, we can get some better clarity from the federal court as to which court is going to hear the legal arguments,” Sink said.

During court, the attorney representing HUD expressed they’d like to find a solution so the property does not close.

When Fowlkes asked what steps HUD is taking to rectify the situation, the federal agency said it plans to do an inspection on the complex between Jan. 11 and Jan. 13 and will share the report with all parties involved.

“We welcome HUD’s involvement because we do think they play a role here, and our primary concern is for the safety of those tenants. They are living in an environment that is not safe for them, and we want to find a way to make it safe again,” Sink said.

The next hearing will be a video conference Jan. 19 at 10:30 a.m. It will be a status update to make sure all motions are complete and determine if a hearing is necessary.

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