As owner of Summerset Village Apartment tries to appeal fines legal teams tour grounds

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Legal teams toured Fresno's Summerset Village Apartments Thursday as the owner tries to appeal thousands of dollars in fines.

Legal teams toured Fresno's Summerset Village Apartments Thursday as the owner tries to appeal thousands of dollars in fines.

It's taken five months of reconstruction at the Summerset Village Apartments to finally be at a livable standard. Now a mediator for the city will decide if owner Chris Henry should pay the $290,000 in code violation fines.

Legal teams made their rounds Thursday to prepare for a hearing later this month.

"It is an option that the hearing officer does have as part of his research into the case," said Mark Standriff, City of Fresno.

It's just one the issues the owner faces since the city found 1,200 code violations here.

Back in December, the complex lost heat for weeks because of a gas line leak. More than one hundred residents have since filed a lawsuit and one of the plaintiffs even said her husband died from living in those conditions.

"We are adding more tools every single day to try to make sure that they know that they are going to be held responsible for the properties that they own," said Standriff.

Despite litigation, changes at the complex are taking place. Almost every apartment is renovated in some form and empty units got a complete overhaul.

But the property manager said cultural differences have made the revamp difficult. Some people refused to move into new units from their old apartments. So major reconstruction in most of the units wasn't possible. Jorge Vasquez is one of those tenants who didn't want to move.

"Feel comfortable here. That's why," said Vasquez.

Gardens surrounding the area are also an issue. The property manager is trying to get certain plants removed and get partitions made of items, like glass, taken out for safety reasons.

The area will soon be covered in asphalt according to the property manager and will be ripped out in the coming months. But if the areas in front of the apartments are well-kept and maintained they are encouraging residents to keep growing their gardens that they rely on as a food source.

The appeal hearing for the code violations is later this month. If the mediator decides the owner doesn't have to pay the fines because he's made all the necessary changes the city could take it to court and have a judge make the final decision.

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