CAPE CORAL, FLA — “They’re 100 percent wrong,” said Jerome Valenta.
That’s the stance that the Cape Coral nonprofit “Haven of Divine Love,” is taking when it comes to city leadership.
“We’ve been in limbo for the last five years,” said Valenta, who is the chairman of the group’s board.
The two groups have been duking it out in court, for the last seven years, after the city found some code violations inside of the nonprofit’s chapel.
Court documents show broken tiles, an ant issue, and a rotting staircase were at the heart of the matter.
“Even if there was something seriously wrong with those stairs, which there wasn’t, but if there was, they could say ‘Okay, you can’t use these stairs until you get them repaired.’ But they can’t say that we can’t use the building,” said Valenta.
Ultimately a judge ruled in the city’s favor, the building was deemed unsafe and power and water were cut off, which led to some landscaping issues.
“Logan trees, we lost palm trees, we lost all kinds of other trees. I think three or four of those claims are for the trees,” he said.
The claims he’s talking about are all outlined in a massive 18 million dollar lawsuit the group is now looking to file against the city.
They’re also claiming the city has been harassing them and unfairly billing them for water services, among other things.
And they want the city to pay up.
That group also owns this property next door, which provides subsidized housing to seniors and those with disabilities and they claim their ongoing legal troubles with the city have impacted their ability to help these folks out.
“We’ve already had like 46 of our residents have lost all or part of their subsidies over the years,” said Valenta.
That group says they’ve submitted these complaints directly to the city, but they have to give them six months to respond before they can officially file their suit.
FOX 4 has reached out to the city for comment. A spokeswoman said the city not to speak on “pending litigation.”