Northland News

Summit Park residents forced to find new homes

Friends group offering interpreters, information about other local apartments

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A fire at one of the buildings in the Summit Park Apartments last August has forced dozens of refugee and immigrant families to move.

Last week, action by city officials, in response to what they said was continued lack of action on the part of owners and management at the complex off Le Marie Court south of Morse Road, means everybody has to find a new place to live.

The 260-unit Summit Park Apartments -- only about one-fourth occupied -- were declared unsafe by the Columbus Department of Building and Zoning Services last week. Residents were told to move elsewhere and not return until the buildings are determined to be safe.

The move did not catch Friends of Summit Park napping. The group, coordinated by the Rev. Gregory Herndon of Epworth United Methodist Church, is made up of local clergy members and community volunteers. They held an emergency meeting to chart a course of action to help those needing new accommodations.

Joyce Bourgault, a member of Friends of Summit Park, said she and others had been gathering information on vacant apartments nearby in recent days.

"We feel like we've got a really solid plan to help them out," Bourgault said.

City prosecutors filed a complaint against Summit Park Apartments April 22, saying code enforcement personnel had uncovered 63 violations since September.

That case is still listed as pending in Franklin County Municipal Court records.

Paul Gabrail, a member of the Cleveland-based owner partnership of the complex, told The Columbus Dispatch that work to correct the problems had been ongoing, and the worst ones had been fixed.

But Scott Messer, deputy director of the Department of Building and Zoning Services, told The Dispatch that none of the improvement projects had been completed.

The owners have 30 days to appeal the ruling.

Along with city personnel distributing a notice to tenants telling them that they must vacate immediately, Bourgault said members of Friends of Summit Park were on hand last week with interpreters to provide a list of possible alternatives.

"We've got a group that has gotten information from the apartment complexes around the area because most of them like to stay close to their families," Bourgault said.

While Friends of Summit Park and city officials have been meeting with the ownership group, there hasn't been much progress made, said Bourgault, chairwoman of the Northland Alliance.

"We've been through three management groups in the last year and a half," she said. "They each promised big things and they do not deal especially with the major structural issues that the city of Columbus has found to be there. They just were not getting it done.

"I appreciate the city taking the move that they did," she said. "They've been diligent now for probably a year and a half, going in and checking on violations, following up."

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