The Burnsville City Council has suspended the rental license of a 313-unit apartment complex after inspectors found dozens of fire code violations over the last six months, some of which are still not fixed.
"I can tell you that there's no other property in town that has gotten this much attention this year," said Fire Chief BJ Jungmann.
Under the terms of the 90-day suspension, issued Tuesday, the owners of Parkvue Flats, a three-building complex at 1501 E. Burnsville Parkway, cannot rent vacant units and must submit a plan for making repairs within 45 days. Current residents can continue living at the property.
Bridge WF II Parkvue Flats LLC, which purchased the property in December 2021, could still face license revocation — which would require vacating all residents — if improvements aren't made.
Problems began in May 2022, when a routine fire inspection tallied 57 code violations — an "extremely high number," Jungmann said. Exit lights and handrails were missing, trash rooms were piled with refuse, sheetrock repairs were half-completed and several fire doors wouldn't close. One tenant's bathroom was covered in mold, and there was an "inordinate amount of water" in parking garages and basements, Jungmann said.
Violations piled up after that. An August inspection found common areas on two floors of one building had no lighting, and a November inspection discovered workers repairing the parking garage without a permit.
On Dec. 6, inspectors found 21 new or existing fire code violations; there are also 22 open violations to city code, which regulates unit interiors.
The complex has had three fires since August, and 460 calls related to fires or emergency medical response since 2018 — a comparatively high number, Jungmann said. Perhaps the most concerning issue occurred Nov. 11, he said, when there was a fire but not a single alarm sounded.
"In my entire career, I have never been to an apartment fire where the common area horns did not sound," Jungmann said.
Recalling a unit that had moldy walls and plastic sheets hanging where sheetrock should have been, Council Member Dan Kealey said the violations made him "sick to [his] stomach."
"It's obviously a reflection of the ownership not really caring at all," he said, adding that the situation was similar to one in 2012, the last time the city revoked an apartment building's license. The revocation of that building, called Country Village, meant residents of more than 100 units had to find new homes.
Council Member Cara Schulz said she would have pushed for license revocation at Parkvue Flats if it wasn't winter.
Mayor Elizabeth Kautz said the city must step in "to protect those folks who don't have a voice or don't think they have a voice" when health and safety are involved.
The city filed a civil lawsuit against Bridge in October due to the ongoing violations.
Matthew Beyer, the attorney representing the company, said Bridge is trying to work with the city.
"Obviously we want everything to be remediated as soon as possible," he said.
But Beyer said issues existed before Bridge bought the property — some even dated to 2018. He also said problems with contractors and supply-chain issues affected the timeline for completing repairs and told the council that Bridge spent $1.3 million on improvements — including dog parks, fitness centers and sidewalks — over the last year.
Many items identified in a recent presentation Jungmann gave to the council, as well as violations noted in the Dec. 6 inspection, have since been fixed, Beyer said.
On Friday, Parkvue resident Brice Leseman said there had been some issues around the apartments, such as laundry machines that didn't work, but they were fixed.
"They usually take care of it but it takes a little longer than expected," he said.
Resident Bryce Ekeren said he was aware of the owner's license suspension, adding that the place was "definitely in disrepair."
The common door to his building didn't lock, the resident directory didn't work and his own front door wouldn't stay shut. He pointed out a kitchen cabinet, which was hanging at an angle, pulled more than an inch from the wall.
Only the front door had been fixed, he said, though he submitted a work order for the cabinet months ago.
Ekeren, who said he pays $1,200 a month for a one-bedroom, said the owners seem to have prioritized fixing the buildings' exteriors and redoing the pool.
"That's of very little use to me," he said.