Council votes to condemn Brandywine Condos; option to reverse decision still possible

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Wednesday night, the East Baton Rouge metro council decided on the future of the Brandywine Condominiums, a property that has long been an eyesore for some residents.

Around 5 p.m. Wednesday night, council members approved a motion to condemn the property.

From dented drink cans to bent basketball goals, the problems at Brandywine Condominiums are clear even before stepping inside the gates.

"I've been dealing with it for nine years since I've been on the council and it's time to do something," said councilwoman Donna Collins-Lewis.

That nine year history has been harsh. More often than not, the property has been plagued with everything from shootings to break-ins and even arson. In a Paul Gates story from 2009, a near riot erupted right after Entergy threatened to shut off the power and managers then said they would shut the place down.

"They are talking about shooting the managers in the neck. They are going to burn the buildings down and they are going to beat the two people up in the office," said former tenant, Winnifred O'Neal.

Shutting the doors is now closer to reality than ever after the council's vote to condemn the property. Problems have piled up for years and Collins-Lewis says it is past time they take action. "I'm just not willing to keep putting it off and putting it off," said Collins-Lewis. "I think it's unfair to the community."

The decision to demolish the condos is a controversial move that did not come without a challenge Wednesday.

Attorney Roy Maughan with City Holdings, llc. bought the property last June with other partners and together, they tried to revitalize the failing space, but he says they ran into several challenges, especially after the historic flood.

A sign at the front of the complex clearly says "No Trespassing" and "No Dumping," but Maughan says that is exactly what happened at the complex and part of what he believes hindered their progress.

"People have disposed of their refuse and other things here, but we feel like we're doing the work of others and have been doing the work of others in trying to maintain the property," Maughan added.

Maughan says another roadblock they have run into is crime. It's something he again maintains was out of their control. WAFB's Scottie Hunter asked Maughan if he felt like the owners got a fair shake before council members Wednesday night.

"Listen," he responded. "I think the city listened to it and I think they listened to our arguments, but what I think that City Holdings is the beneficiary of unfortunately is eight years of pent up anger."

While the decision seems final, even now, the fight over the controversial complex still might not be over.

"If they do a tax credit application and they're actually awarded and I can see that and see that there's really going to be action, I can always rescind it, but I'm not willing to take it off the condemnation list at this time," said Collins-Lewis.

Only a handful of residents still live at the condos on Darryl Dr. A similar effort to demolish the property ended prior to Wednesday night's decision due to the city not having enough money to carry out the plan.

Council members raised that question at the meeting and the city's attorney told them there is roughly $1 million available in the budget for demolition projects.


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