Students ordered out of Woodland Ave. house

Fayette Circuit Judge Ernesto Scorsone has issued a temporary injunction against property owner Michael Morrison, barring him from operating a house at 171 Woodland Avenue as a lodging house.

The house, where as many as 10 students lived until recently, violates several city fire safety and zoning regulations, city officials said.

Scorsone issued the injunction Monday afternoon, directing the property to be vacated "effective immediately."

Five students were living in the house on Monday. They were required to move until the courts lifts the injunction.

A copy of the injunction was posted on the house Tuesday. "We will be back on Wednesday and check that the premises have been vacated," said Dewey Crowe, director of Building Inspection.

"If we can't get in, we will contact the property owner to provide access so we can verify no one is living there," he said.

Scorsone also ruled that the Woodland Avenue property violated city zoning laws prohibiting lodging houses in a professional office (P-1) zone.

Chris King, the city's director of planning, said P-1 requires the first floor be occupied by offices "with a certain amount of residential allowed on the second floor."

When city Fire Marshal James Branham and representatives from Building Inspection inspected the house in early October, 10 students were living there. All had individual locks on their bedrooms and smoke alarms were not hard-wire directly into the electrical system, both violations of the fire code.

Locks have been removed and smoke alarms now meet city standards, Morrison and business partner Mike Haley told the judge on Monday.

The owners asked Scorsone to delay his ruling, arguing that they had made numerous improvements since the property was first inspected on Oct. 2, after the city received a complaint about the condition of the house.

However, they said that the house still does not have a sprinkler system and is not in compliance of zoning laws, according to a press release from the city. The Herald-Leader could not reach Morrison or Haley.

Scorsone expressed concern about fire safety violations, and said he had to rule based on conditions that exist. "What if there's a fire and one of those kids dies," Scorsone said. "That's the real concern for me."

Branham said that when electric meters were installed, the city did not conduct a final inspection of them. "We weren't sure they were wired correctly because they had not been inspected," he said on Tuesday.

In recent weeks the city has stepped up inspections of "congregate living facilities" where several people live in single family homes, especially in neighborhoods surrounding the University of Kentucky. Mayor Jim Newberry said the effort will continue.

Enforcement of fire safety and zoning laws in these neighborhoods is "long overdue," he said. "We will not tolerate fire code violations and we will not allow these neighborhoods to be destroyed by landlords who ignore zoning laws."

He anticipates additional court action against other properties.

Scorsone said a certificate of occupancy will not be issued until an order is handed down by the court.