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LIGHTNING EDITORIAL: The best hope for Alpine Woods

Hendersonville's code enforcement officer has condemned eight units at Alpine Woods Resort. Hendersonville's code enforcement officer has condemned eight units at Alpine Woods Resort.

Henderson County and the city of Hendersonville have invented a sensible and practical proposal for cleaning up Alpine Woods Resort and making the homes habitable for tenants.

In a complaint filed last month in Civil Superior Court, District Attorney Greg Newman, County Attorney Russ Burrell and City Attorney Sam Fritschner laid out the case for a judge to rule that the 80-unit mobile park is a public nuisance.
As the Hendersonville Lightning has been reporting since March, Alpine Woods tenants went weeks without running water last winter. Most units have no central heat as required by local and state housing codes. Raw sewage runs on the ground where children play. The city of Hendersonville, which has condemned eight units, “would issue condemnation orders on many more” if there were any other place the tenants could go, Burrell and Fritschner point out.
After a hearing last Monday in Columbus, Superior Court Judge J. Thomas “Tommy” Davis of Rutherford County delayed acting on the petition for a preliminary injunction. Davis was generous to the defendant, pointing out that the lawsuit had only recently been filed. Davis gave Alpine Woods owner Warren Newell more time to get a lawyer and show up in court, neither of which the lord of squalor had managed to do in the 13-day stretch since he was served with the complaint.
It’s impossible to believe that Newell could have been blindsided by the complaint. He surely has known for years about the acts of domestic violence, the drug dealing, the noise, the filthy conditions, the muddy ruts that pass for roads, the lack of water, the broken underground water pipes and sewer pipes and the mold and the mildew that infest his Shangri la. He’s no absentee landlord. He’s out there every day. It would be hard to miss the misery he presides over in his eight-acre “resort.”
The lawsuit contains the letter Sheriff Charlie McDonald sent to Newell on Jan. 14, 2014 — a year and four months ago — in which McDonald puts Newell on notice that if he continued operating a public nuisance he could be subject to court-ordered closure or forfeiture of the property. Newell should marvel at his good fortune in having been granted grace without even showing up to ask for grace.
The proposal that Burrell and Fritschner explained to Judge Davis is imminently fair to Newell. The court would appoint a special master to run the park, collect rent, evict bad characters, pay the bills and make repairs. Then what? Not only does Newell keep the property. When he gets it back — on condition that he maintain the units so they’re habitable by humans — it’s in far better condition, and is worth more, than when the court temporarily seized it.
The plan on the court’s docket now is the only solution anyone has devised that has a chance of working. The alternative is to decide as a community that Alpine Woods Resort is our solution to the affordable housing crisis and we’re just going to walk away. The next judge who hears the request ought to grant the injunction and move this rescue mission forward. It’s the best hope for the Alpine Woods tenants.