For only the third time since incorporating, Wellington is taking steps that could lead to tearing down a privately owned structure — this one riddled with toxic mold.
It could be August before the village knows whether or not it will demolish the property in the 1100 block of White Pine Drive. And residents still living there continue to look for new lodging as red signs from Wellington’s Building Department mark their homes as unsafe.
The property is owned by AIG Enterprise Corp. of West Palm Beach and went into foreclosure last year to Wells Fargo Bank, court records show. Because Wellington has a handful of code enforcement liens on the property, the village is listed as a defendant in the foreclosure.
Wellington staff and inspectors hired by the village discovered extensive mold — including Stachybotrys, better known as toxic black mold — throughout three of the property’s four units in early January. Village attorney Laurie Cohen said she let Wells Fargo know about the mold early this month in a court filing.
“When I found out this had been declared an unsafe structure, I thought it was prudent to make sure that the bank had an opportunity to come in and do the repairs to protect its security, since they have an interest in the building and the structure,” she said.
An agreement approved last week by Circuit Court Judge Edward Artau allows Wells Fargo to inspect the property and decide if it will make repairs, or if the mold damage is too extensive to merit the work. If the property can be repaired then Wells Fargo has until April 1 submit its plans to the village, and until Aug. 1 to obtain building permits and complete the work, court records state.
Wells Fargo must let Wellington know within 15 days of the inspection whether or not it will make the repairs.
“You’re really talking about gutting the building, treating the concrete and rebuilding,” Cohen said.
If the repairs cannot be made, Cohen said the village will demolish the building.
All four units at the property still were occupied as of Monday, despite orders from Wellington officials to leave as soon as possible.
Isaac Antoine, AIG corporate officer and property manager, told The Palm Beach Post he gave tenants until the end of February to move. His company is working to return security deposits, ranging from $1,200-$1,400, for three of the four tenants, he said.
“I should get it to them before they move out, which is officially on the first (of March),” he said. “I’m trying to get the OK from the company to give them the deposits before then.”
The tenants will not get their first and last month’s rent back, which they had to put down before moving into the units. Antoine said that is because he used the last month’s rent to cover February.
Wellington’s Community Services Department is trying to connect residents with agencies that may be able to help them, Assistant Village Manager Jim Barnes said. Many of the residents do not have the money to put down upwards of $4,000 on first and last months’ rent and security deposits on new rentals.
“We’re trying to find resources for them that can help them, at least temporarily,” Barnes said.
Perhaps the most well-known Wellington-driven demolition of a private property is what is referred to as “the blue tarp house,” a multi-family home formerly at 13932 Folkstone Circle.
The building was known for the blue tarps that covered parts of its roof for years following the hurricanes in 2004 and 2005.
The village tore down the structure in 2014 after following a path similar to the one it now is taking with the one on White Pine Drive: Court records show the bank, as part of a foreclosure suit, was given three months to either make repairs or demolish the home.
“Because it was in foreclosure, I didn’t want to demolish the building and then have the bank say, ‘You knew we were interested in it and you didn’t give us an opportunity to make repairs,’” village attorney Cohen said.