JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — The new owner of the lavish mansion where Latitude 360 CEO Brent Brown used to live has been cited for illegally renting out the property as an event venue.
Action News Jax found evidence that Brown still has connections to the property.
Brown lived in the sprawling waterfront estate at 4424 Kelnepa Drive while his employees’ paychecks bounced, and while government records show he failed to pay taxes.
Now customers can spend thousands of dollars to rent it out for a party.
The problem? It’s not legal.
Neighbors say the events have turned their quiet San Marco street into a nightmare.
“People going to parties, parties, parties, parties,” neighbor Marie Wood said.
“We can’t get in our driveway,” neighbor Bonnie Biats said.
“The party trucks, the rental trucks and the 50-100 cars that show up at functions about every weekend,” neighbor Bobby Thomas said.
Eight neighbors tell Action News Jax they have had enough.
When they bought their homes on Kelnepa Drive, they thought they were moving onto a quiet street.
That was before the mansion at the end of the cul-de-sac started being advertised as a resort called the Tuscan River Estate, booking weddings, parties and other events online all the way into May 2018.
Last week, the city of Jacksonville posted a citation on the gate because this property is not zoned or permitted as an event venue.
“I don’t think it impressed the resort people at all because they started preparing for a new event that afternoon,” said neighbor Allan Biats, who said it was his complaint to city councilwoman Lori Boyer that sparked Code Enforcement’s investigation.
Neighbor of Brent Brown: 'He continues to play shell games'
Action News Jax has been investigating the financial failures of now-bankrupt entertainment eatery Latitude 360 and its CEO Brown for nearly two years.
Property appraiser records show Brown sold his mansion to CLS Asset Management.
CLS Asset Management then sold the mansion to Tuscan River Estate LLC.
Here’s the thing: Florida Department of State filings show that Tuscan River Estate LLC is listed as the registered agent for CLS Asset Management.
Tuscan River Estate LLC is registered in Delaware, where you don’t have to name a registered agent. But Michael Johnigean is listed on the venue’s website as the manager.
Johnigean is also the director of Rex Gryphon LLC, a company whose certificate of formation is signed by Brent Brown’s wife Antonia (Toni) Brown.
One more thing about CLS Asset Management: Florida Department of State filings show its general partner is Brownstone Developers, LLC – a company that is managed by Brent and Antonia Brown.
“He continues to play shell games with the ownership of the house, trying to stay one step ahead of his creditors, I’m sure,” neighbor Bill Wood said.
Brown's mother continues to look after Tuscan River Estate
Action News Jax found several current ties still remain between the Browns and the mansion.
Brent Brown’s mother Sheri Brown still has a clicker for the gate. She showed up while Action News Jax was outside in an unmarked car.
“I just kind of look over the property, make sure everything’s OK,” Sheri Brown said.
A review from last month on the website HomeAway thanks Toni Brown for being “extremely helpful” during an event.
Action News Jax left multiple voicemails for Brent Brown asking to get his side of the story. He has not responded.
Johnigean texted Action News Jax that what he was doing is “perfectly legal.”
He agreed to meet for an interview.
Then two days later, Johnigean said he didn’t have time to talk after all.
But Johnigean did have time to call Scott Odell and give him Action News Jax reporter Jenna Bourne’s number.
“Everything’s smooth,” said Odell, who lives next door to the mansion. “There’s no trash. We hear zero noise.”
When Bourne asked Odell why his account differed from eight of his neighbors’ experiences, he responded, “Well, they may have other motivations.”
Neighbor: Kelnepa Drive has turned into 'a carnival atmosphere'
Allan Biats said his only motivation is to get his quiet street back.
“I just find it hard to believe that someone can steal an entire street from a neighborhood and turn it into a carnival atmosphere,” said Allan Biats.
The booking page of Tuscan River Estate’s website said it costs a minimum of $650 a night to stay at the mansion, with a three-night minimum stay required.
During checkout, customers can select an option to add an additional $2,000 to hold an event there for up to 100 people.
That’s not including the hundreds of dollars that customers can expect to be charged for a cleaning fee and lodging tax.
Despite the event booking options on the website, Johnigean texted Action News Jax the following statement:
"The Tuscan River Estate has been on HomeAway for two years. The Estate is a rental destination. I do not provide any other services but a rental service of the Estate. This is perfectly legal along with millions of other homes set up as rentals throughout the United States. Tuscan River Estate, LLC has property rights according to both State and County Laws. The home has been under new ownership since April 1, 2016 and management. If our guest choose to hold their event at the Estate. I will insure that their event has minimal impact on the neighborhood. I apologize to the neighbors if their [sic] has been any issues in the past. I will make sure that if any of our tenants hold an event at the Estate that the neighbors will not have any issues and they will have my contact info so they can contact me direct."
City councilwoman Lori Boyer said code enforcement will re-inspect the property 30 days after the July 14 citation was issued.
Boyer said the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department and the Building Inspections Division were also notified because they may be able to enforce fire safety issues due to capacity.
After the citation was issued, the Tuscan River Estate website took down the contact information for its event planner, Anne Urban.
The website also changed its “services” section to include a disclaimer that says, “This is not a commercial property and we do not provide commercial services.”