Lyons Creek Apartments ordered to vacate

Mar. 27—Residents of apartments at a former U.S. Army Hospital campus in Clinton have until May 1 to vacate because the buildings have been deemed dangerous or are condemned.

The Housing Board of Appeals decided at a March 6 hearing to uphold occupancy permit revocation and a notice to vacate served on Lyons Creek Apartments at 2604 North Fourth St.

"This is our fault,' said Danny Njeim, representing the apartments complex at the hearing, "and we are paying dearly for these mistakes for hiring the wrong people."

Tenants have been given until May 1 to vacate. They are to be assisted by the city in finding alternative housing.

According to the minutes of the hearing, the property includes 18 buildings intended to be utilized for apartments. Only four of the buildings, though, are occupied, and three have been condemned. The remaining buildings have been declared to be dangerous.

On Feb. 19, Lyons Creek Apartments received the order to vacate all buildings on the property from Lynch Dallas law firm out of Cedar Rapids. Lyons Creek Apartments responded with a letter of appeal asking for more time to remediate violations if city code.

"I know we were late on a few things, and we've had a lot of issues finding a property manager that will stay at the property, because the building is not generating any money," Njeim said. "It's been too difficult to invest in the property when the property doesn't have as much demand as we anticipated."

A dangerous building notice had been served in May 2017 on previous ownership of the complex. Since then, several more notices have been served and two Municipal Infraction Citations have been filed in Iowa District Court.

Lyons Creek Apartments LLC was found guilty in District Court in February 2023 of the failure to abate conditions including, court documents state, "severely deteriorating roofs." The court ordered that all buildings deemed dangerous be repaired within 60 days.

After the ordered repairs were not completed within the given time frame, Lyone Creek Apartments was found to be in contempt. Current ownership of the complex did not appear at the contempt hearing held in September and the court imposed fines in judgment.

Less than two weeks later, Lyons Creek Apartments pled guilty to the second Municipal Infraction Citation that alleged additional code violations. These were ordered by the court to be remediated by Dec. 26 but they were not.

Deputy Code Official Richard Foley stated during the Housing Board of Appeals hearing that in August 2023, a structure fire had occurred within a unit that had not been approved for occupancy since February 2023. It was found when conducting an investigation of the fire that no smoke alarms were present in the building.

Foley asked the Board of Appeals to support occupancy permit revocation for period of one calendar year.

The board concluded based on exhibits and reports submitted by the city, along with the testimonies given at the hearing, that none of the buildings are compliant with code and denied the appeal requested by Lyons Creek Apartments.

"To my understanding, over the last half a year, we've been working to comply," Njeim said. "I don't think it's fair to put the people out and put more load on the property, because if this happens for a whole year, we cannot survive, and someone else is going to pick up the property, and they're going to get stuck in the same loop over and over again."

If all violations are abated, the property passes an inspection, and it is approved by the city, Lyons Creek may apply for a new occupancy permit at any time. The revocation may be extended beyond a year, though, if the property continues to remain in violation of city code.