MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The Peppertree Apartments in Whitehaven remain open but a Federal judge in Memphis warns he would close the “crime-plagued” complex could if positive changes aren’t soon made.
The warning comes from Federal Judge John Fowlkes, Jr. after the City of Memphis requested an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order against Peppertree and its owners.
For Jennifer Sink, Chief Legal Officer for the City of Memphis, Friday morning’s hearing in Federal Court ended with a continuance and frustration over unaddressed issues at Peppertree Apartments.
“Overall the conditions at Peppertree are getting worse,” Sink said. “Despite the fact that we filed a nuisance action back in November of 2021, we’ve seen no evidence of any effort on their part to improve the condition of the property.”
The City filed paperwork Thursday requesting an emergency motion for a temporary restraining order and preliminary injunction against Peppertree and its owners, TESCO Properties, Inc.
The motion seeks “restraining and enjoining Peppertree, from accepting any new tenants, from renewing existing expiring leases at the Peppertree Apartments, and granting the City permission to communicate with residents of Peppertree to advise them of alternative housing.”
Most of Friday’s hearing centered on testimony from Criminologist Dr. Angela Madden who toured Peppertree in May and photographed evidence of drugs and weapons use, breaches in security, poor lighting, broken windows and trash.
Madden told the court conditions at Peppertree are “invitations” to criminals and leave residents feeling helpless. To add to the problems, two walkways collapsed within tens days of each other and a fire Wednesday destroyed the apartments leasing office and surveillance system.
Though Peppertree’s attorney presented pictures showing improved lighting in the complex, Federal Judge John Fowlkes, Jr. was not impressed and suggested he would move to close the 306 unit complex and find safer living conditions for residents.
“We would anticipate that we would need 120 days to relocate all of the tenants. We could have some moved in a 30 day window, but that is a lot of people and so we think that would require is up to 120 days,” Sink said.
Judge John Fowlkes, Jr. continued the hearing till next Wednesday morning at 9:30. Peppertree is also due back in Environmental Court next week on recent code violations.