The city of Atlanta is gearing up to take mega-landlord Millennia Housing Management back to municipal court over code enforcement violations against the southside’s Forest Cove Apartments.
Almost two years after a city judge condemned the decrepit apartment complex and ordered it razed, it’s still standing and as plagued as ever by disrepair, sewage leaks, pests, and overgrowth.
On Oct. 4, a municipal judge will hear the city’s claims from May that Forest Cove “constitutes an endangerment to the public health or safety as a result of unsanitary or unsafe conditions.”
An Atlanta judge had already deemed Forest Cove a public nuisance and ordered it bulldozed in December 2021. At the time, it housed almost 200 low-income families who used government-backed vouchers to defray the rent, in a city where affordable housing is scarce.
But Millennia appealed and then reached a settlement deal with the city in March 2022 to void the demolition order if the dilapidated complex’s tenants were successfully rehoused.
The city was able to relocate all the residents by last October. That prompted Fulton County Superior Court Judge Eric Dunaway to rule last month in favor of Millennia’s appeal, deciding that it had met the terms of the settlement agreement with the city. He ordered the two parties to draft a final settlement that would stay the wrecking ball.
By taking Millennia back to municipal court over housing code infractions, the city is effectively teeing up the possibility that another city judge will order Forest Cove demolished.
“We want the property to stop being a nuisance to the area, a haven for criminal activity, and ultimately redeveloped so residents can return to their neighborhood,” said the Atlanta mayor’s press secretary, Michael Smith. “If demolition is the fastest route to make that happen, so be it.”
But almost two years after gaining the initial demolition order, the city’s efforts to clear away the blighted complex—or see it renovated—have been anything but speedy.
When Dunaway on Aug. 22 ruled in favor of Millennia’s bid to avoid razing Forest Cove, he gave the property owner and the city of Atlanta 10 days to propose a consent order that finalizes the March 2022 settlement agreement.
But a month later, the city and the landlord have failed to submit any such proposal to the court.
That’s because they are still negotiating—or, rather, debating—the terms of the agreement, according to a source in the mayor’s office with direct knowledge of the case, who addressed the ongoing litigation on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this week, Dunaway ordered Millennia and the city to appear before him for a hearing on Sept. 27 to explain why they missed his deadline and figure out how to proceed. Otherwise, they face being held in contempt of court, according to his Sept. 18 rule nisi order.