The owner of an apartment complex in Belle Glade is being ordered to make health and safety repairs to keep nearly 200 residents from being displaced from their homes only days before the new school year begins.
Inspections Monday by the county fire marshal and Health Department revealed a litany of health and safety concerns, including unsafe or non-existent staircases, rodent infestation, active wasp nests, mold, broken windows, garbage, open sewer cleanout pipes and discarded mattresses and tarps in abandoned swimming pools.
Ytech International, the Miami-based real estate investment and development company that owns the complex, was ordered to address the numerous health and safety code violations at the Grand Lake Apartment complex, 2000 S. Main St.
“If corrective action to comply does not commence immediately, further action will be taken,” Fire Marshal Larry Willhite wrote to Ytech.
Ytech President John Breistol, reached by telephone Wednesday afternoon, told The Palm Beach Post he could not discuss the complex because he was “clearing customs” and needed to put his cellphone away. He offered to discuss the complex on Monday.
Belle Glade Mayor Steve Wilson said Grand Lake residents complained about conditions during a city meeting two weeks ago.
But this isn’t the first time poor conditions at Grand Lake have made the news.
WPTV Channel 5 did a story on the complex in February 2014, noting some of the same health and safety concerns identified during Monday’s inspections.
One resident told the station she did not want to leave her unit because she had no confidence she would be placed in a better one.
Resident Aaron Allen said he has some concerns about the complex, “but where we live is OK.”
“I think the two swimming pools should be removed and or properly covered, and the large speed bump near the guard shack lowered or taken out,” Allen wrote in an email to The Post. “I have had to repair my car because of it. The empty apartments should be secured. Other than that, we have not had any major problems living here.
“There have been times when we asked them to do a few things like redo the tubs or fix the peeling floors but they did not do it,” he continued. “I know that a lot of the residents have legitimate complaints, and that some of the complexes are not suitable to live in, but where we live is OK.”
Wilson said he was unaware of the television report on Grand Lake last year.
“That last year date is new to me,” he said, adding that the city will make sure the code violations are addressed. “We’re hoping we can get this taken care of while the residents are still there. It’s our obligation to make sure these folks have a place to go — if it came down to that.”
The complex is in Belle Glade but county staff members, led by County Administrator Bob Weisman, went to Belle Glade Wednesday to see the complex for themselves.
Commissioner Melissa McKinlay, whose district includes Belle Glade, reached out to state and federal officials to lay the groundwork for an assistance plan in case residents need to be relocated.
And she asked county staff to get involved.
“Some things are noticeably bad,” Weisman said. “It needs work, which the owner acknowledges.”
Ytech’s website says the company “has invested in, developed and redeveloped over 7,000 residential units over the last decade and currently owns a real estate portfolio valued at over $300 million, making it one of the largest privately held companies in Miami in terms of aggregate asset value.”
The site lists 20 “business principles” that guide its actions, saying Ytech will become “the best and most respected real estate investment and development company in South Florida” if it adhered to those principles.
No. 12 on that list of principles was: “Never compromise our character and uphold the highest level of business ethics.”
In urging the company to address the code violations at Grand Lake, Weisman said conditions there are “notably at odds” with the website’s representations.