Boarding home residents fornicating and trespassing, according to lawsuit

FILE - Zoe's Safe Place (KXAN File Photo)
FILE - Zoe's Safe Place (KXAN File Photo)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Neighbors of Zoe’s Safe Place say the North Austin boarding home’s residents are a nuisance, and they are disrupting business, according to a lawsuit filed Tuesday.

Lawrence E. Meyers, as a manager of the Ramon Burstyn Irrevocable Trust, is the plaintiff and filed the petition and application for permanent injunction. The trust owns two commercial properties that are leased by a motorcycle shop and optometrist office next to Zoe’s Safe Place at 8007 Burnet Rd.

“The residents living on [Zoe’s] have engaged in nuisance behavior including, but not limited to, indecent exposure, howling and making loud noises, yelling profanity, sexual and physical assaults,” according to the application. “In addition, since August 2015, the residents living on the Property have trespassed onto Plaintiff’s properties for the purpose of fornicating, urinating, defecating…”

“The residents living on the Property have trespassed… for the purpose of fornicating, urinating, defecating…”

An attorney for the plaintiff also said a resident of Zoe’s entered the optometrist office and began throwing pamphlets into the air in the reception area.

In August of 2015, the Texas Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS) investigated Zoe’s for complaints of lack of air conditioning and bug infestation. At that time, KXAN also found the operator of Zoe’s, Tommie McKinney, had a lengthy criminal history. Zoe’s is a nonprofit, according to the lawsuit. Educare Community Living Corporation-America and 8007 Burnet Holdings LLC are also listed as defendants in the suit.

McKinney did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Within weeks of being investigated, DADS secured a temporary restraining order against both Zoe’s and McKinney for operating an unlicensed living facility. McKinney ceased personal care services and began operating the facility as a boarding home.

The lawsuit also references a report by The Austin American-Statesman, which notes the Austin Police Department was called to Zoe’s 159 times from Jan. 25, 2015 through Aug. 18, 2015. Those calls for service included eight emergency detentions and four sex crimes, the report states.

Susan J. Haney, an attorney for the plaintiff, said her client wants Zoe’s to take responsibility for its tenants’ behaviors and institute rules and regulations that respect her client’s right to “quiet enjoyment of the property.” It is possible the state could shut down the facility, she added.

The plaintiff also alleges a civil conspiracy. According to the lawsuit, an agent of the owner of 8007 Burnet Rd., which is the address of Zoe’s, approached the plaintiff and requested the plaintiff sell its property. The plaintiff denied the request, Haney said.

“My client believes that there may have been an attempt to devalue his property, so he is forced to sell out so they can build condos,” Haney said.

The plaintiff seeks at least $300,000 in damages. Haney said the lawsuit is in the early stages, and it isn’t clear when the court will make a decision.