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Court fights continue as eviction looms for Mosley Motel residents

ST. PETERSBURG — As residents at the Mosley Motel anxiously hunt for new homes before a fast-approaching eviction deadline, a series of legal maneuvers threatens to distract them.

First, more than five dozen residents have filed a suit against the motel's new owners, Altis Cardinal LLC, asking a judge to stay their Sept. 16 evictions. Their suit, to be heard at 9:15 a.m. today before Pinellas County Judge Lorraine Kelly, seeks more time to find "adequate, affordable housing" — something social workers say is in scarce supply.

Further, Julious Mosley, a former owner of the troubled motel at 401 34th St. N, filed a federal suit against the city of St. Petersburg and Altis alleging that they violated his civil rights. He and others in the former Mosley Motel ownership group are also still fighting the property's foreclosure — even though the property has already changed hands.

On Friday, the old ownership opened another legal front: They filed for an emergency motion that is also aimed at prohibiting Altis from evicting residents from the motel.

"They have a right to be there," Mosley said, adding that Altis can't do anything "until we get this settled."

Altis, though, is standing firm on the Sept. 16 notice it sent to residents, giving them 30 days to leave the property — or they and their belongings will be removed.

Joyce Cole, 35, who worked full time in the Mosley office under the old management, said she and her four children — ages 13, 12, 7 and 6 — have nowhere to go.

"I'll probably be moving to another motel when it comes to the 16th," said Cole, who has lived at the Mosley for six years. "I have no other choice."

Cliff Smith, St. Petersburg's manager of veterans, social and homeless services, said his office and Pinellas County's social service agencies are trying to help Mosley residents find new homes. But the Sept. 16 deadline looms.

"I'm anxious," Smith said, "because we are looking at two weeks."

Altis spokeswoman Lesley Valentin said about a dozen of the motel's 110 units are now vacant. The motel's former owners left no tenant records, she said, so Altis doesn't know how many people live there. A previous manager said 400 residents, including dozens of children, had made the motel their home.

In his suit, Julious Mosley accuses the city, whose nuisance abatement board has fined the motel thousands of dollars, of targeting businesses "offering housing alternatives to low-income persons."

"The city, they conspired with Altis to put us out of business," he told the Tampa Bay Times. "I am planning on getting the hotel back and the city of St. Petersburg and Altis will be responsible for all of our losses."

"The suit is clearly a claim for monetary damages," said Joseph Patner, the city's head litigator. "We've reviewed the allegations, and we are confident that both factually and legally the city's actions were appropriate."

Altis, which owns properties around the motel, including Skyline Fifth — according to its website the complex offers upscale apartments — would not comment on legal matters, Valentin said.

Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report. Contact Waveney Ann Moore at wmoore@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2283. Follow @wmooretimes.

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